Yes, Laurie King IS the cat's pajamas

Every time I read one of Laurie King's books, I'm reminded anew of how good and deliciously subtle her writing is. This is one author that every aspiring author should read about a dozen times, just to be watch the master at work.

For example: LOCKED ROOMS, what I'm reading now, page 85 in the hardcover, a Chinese man says' "I have to say, Miss Russell, that your display of English--do they call it 'phlegm'? is most impressive."

Well, that doesn't make much sense does it? But woe to the reader who thinks Miss King has gone off the rails. No no.

A mere nine paragraphs later, Mary Russell, in whose POV this chapter is told thinks "I might have returned his earlier question aimed at me, for his own demonstration of phlegmatic behaviour..."

the classic example of show, not tell. There's nothing in the narrative other than the correct use of a word, but it give us everything we need to know. This is the apex of elegant writing.

And that's just one example. She builds this elegant novel with elegant bricks, one by one. And the mortar ain't too shabby neither.

A piece of advice I give often is to closely study a book you admire. Watch what the author does. Laurie King would be a good choice for that.

A Novel in a Year

The estimable Kitty, she of the photos that really do require keyboard insurance before viewing, sent this link to an article about how to write a novel in a year.

I think it's a peachy idea for those of you starting out. This is a much more realistic way to get a good start than the Novel in a Month competition. And if it's daunting to think "year"...just think of where you'll be next year if you DON'T start now.

You might also check out Louise Doughty's books to see if what she writes appeals to you. You're less likely to give credence to her advice if you think she can't write. I haven't read any yet, but I will and report back.

There's also a book called something like writing a novel on the weekend by Robert Ray. I read it quite a few years back and it seemed like cogent advice, and I like his novels.

Time to vote on the Crapometer Entries!!--NOW CLOSED

A Snarkling reminded me that it's time to vote on the synopsis entries!

Vote is by email ONLY, and designation is by Crapometer NUMBER only.
Email misssnark @ earthlink. net (no spaces)
Votes in the comment column will NOT be tallied.

Contest opens NOW (Sat 9am) and runs through midnight Monday 1/9/06.

Here are the categories.

1. Most helpful synopsis (and 25 words or less about WHY)

2. Synopsis that made me want to read the book

3. Synopsis that made you want to read a book in a category you normally wouldn't

4. Most helpful comments

5. Best "coffee through the nose" comment (include synopsis number and comment)

I've avoided categories like "worst" and "bizarre" figuring people accepted my comments with grace the first time; why risk poking everyone a second time.

There's a back log of questions in my email box which I will be getting to.

Update: voting closed, results pending. Abacus Snark has been called in for tallying.



Your last comment got shuffled into the reject pile by mistake.
Repost, if you can remember it.
It started .."off topic".

Sorry; it popped up just as I was clicking the "rejected" and you got washed out to sea.


Titles, and why Killer Yapp is Prince of Poodles

Dear Miss Snark:

Your blog is a delight; it almost makes coming to work every day worthwhile, just to check it out. (I only have Internet at work -- thank heavens, or I'd never get anything done at home!)

Now that the synopsis analysis is over, might you perhaps consider discussing book titles? What works, what doesn't -- that sort of thing. For instance, MASTER OF CROWS made me want to pick up the book. Titles such as THE CHOICE, while serviceable, don't have any pizazz. And some will actively repel readers.

And of course, there's another thing to consider: the possibility that the author will wind up with a hit series. This is another reason to think carefully about titles (even though most of us will never wind up with hit series, but hey, you never know, right?). Sue Grafton must be a bit nervous about now...and Janet Evanovich runs contests on her website to get titles for the next Stephanie Plum novel.

Thank you for all your kindness to writers, and Happy 2006!

Also a scritch behind the ears to Killer Yap. (Is Yap a Standard, Miniature, or Toy Poodle?)

Sincerely yours,
A Dedicated Snarkaholic

First, and most important, Killer Yapp is a New York poodle. Size is irrelevant. Attitude is all. The idea of describing anything about him as standard, miniature or toy makes him growl. When I asked him how to answer this question he replied "I'm a super poodle; I leap puddles in a single bound; keep the mailman away from the foyer; AND make sure Miss Snark gets off her slacker ass and runs around the reservoir daily" Other than the slacker ass part, it's pretty accurate.

Now about titles. Don't worry. Don't even think about it. Titles get changed all the time for reasons you can't even begin to list. Even if you end up with a series like Janet Evanovich or Sue Grafton, it may not end up titled like theirs are. Example: Elaine Viets. Her series is "the dead end job" series, but the titles are puns. Example: Roberta Isleib. Her golf series also has a play on words for the title, but the titles change before publication on occasion.

And sometimes titles change even later. I'm reading THE RECORD MEN by Rich Cohen, a brilliant book about Leonard Chess and Chess Records. The copyright info and LoC registry show it was originally called "Machers and Rockers".

So, just write a brilliant novel. Titles come later. After you find the prince of a poodle.

Miss Snark Just Might!

Miss Snark rocks the most. I can only imagine how much work that was for you, and I hope your inbox is giving you a sense of how many people were helped by it.

Possibly you should do a haiku crapometer next. At least they'd be shorter.

some good some messy
some sucked less than they could have
all edifying

Yanno....I like it!!

Pitching woo...or manuscripts.

Gday Miss Snark

We are planning to enter this pitching competition at the SF convention Conjure, to be held in Brisbane, Australia this year.

Could you share you views on whether to pitch the book or the trilogy, considering how integrated the later books are to the apparent wholly contained first book?

Does one mention it is a wholly planned series?

What should we avoid in this situtaiton?

G'day indeed. A quick glance at the rules showed that you have a VERY limited amount of time and words to present your idea. Don't waste it talking about anything other than THIS book. Focus! If they don't want this; they don't want a trilogy.

If you are going to be talking to the agent, I'd suggest practicing what you say. Make it a story. Time yourself. Two minutes tops. Start with something fun; don't apologize for your work either in words (I'm really nervous, I'm not quite ready; this is my first time) or in posture.

Treat it like a job interview.
Then treat yourself to a gin.

Snark on the barbie....wait that came out wrong.

Sending your manuscript

We'll review some of the basics for those new to the blog.

In my authorial angst, I'm trying to make sure I don't shoot myself in the foot. A couple of agents have agreed to look at me work, and am planning on querying a couple of others. So as I'm getting ready to send out my novel....

1) How the heck do you mail out a manuscript? It's about 260 pages. Can I use a 10x13 envelope? Should I put a rubber band around it? Should I use a manuscript box (and if so, where do I get one and what exactly is a manuscript box, and do I wrap it in craft paper before I mail it or just tape the sucker up and send it?)? Also, is it okay to print the manuscript on pink, unicorn stationary (okay, just kidding on the last one).

2) I'm currently writing a spec script with an established, successful screenwriter. I am NOT looking for a screenwriting agent - I will most likely use my friend's agent - I am looking for an agent for my novel (literary/mainstream fiction). Should I mention, at the bottom of my cover letter, in the about me paragraph? Currently, my query letter has the line, "I am currently writing a spec script with NAME (movie credit, movie credit, tv credit)."

In reverse order:

2. No. Generally book agents are only interested in your book. If you had an actual deal, or a screenwriting credit, that's different, but speculative stuff is all talk until there's cash on the table. This looks like you're reaching for credentials. Leave it off.

1. You can buy a manuscript box at any office supply store. If one isn't near you, you can order online. You don't need a box though. You just rubberband the pages, slide them in an envelope that will hold all the pages without using bacon grease, then seal. I fold over the top of the envelope and tape it with shipping tape so the paper doesn't slide around. Then, off to the post office where you forgo anything requiring a signature from the recipient, and bob's your uncle. Don't forget to include a #10 SASE. Don't ask for the ms back.

I'm glad you're kidding about the pink paper with unicorns. The last person who sent me unicorn paper is now wearing it as a festive chapeau.


w2 4 u?

You're the funniest thing Ive read in yonks! Those bits from ms were hysterical and Ive posted them to another writer I know, you've made my day. Do you have a day job??

let me check.

Would you like to guess whether I do and what it might be?

Don't cheat by looking at the title of the blog,
or the topic either. That certainly wouldn't be fair now would it?

Actually my job appears to be bonking people with clue sticks.
Step right up, it's your turn.

Ballots on Broadway...Snark Style!

Not that Miss Snark would ever be so pedestrian as to actually solicit votes...
Killer Yapp: "what's wrong with being a pedestrian?? I walk all over the place."

but it has come to her attention that the flinty eyed folk at Preditors and Editors are running a vote-for-the-blog-that-has-been-of-help-to-you survey.

Not that Miss Snark would ever be so pedestrian as to solicit votes
Killer Yapp:"you said that already."

but, she IS on the ballot (fluffs hair)
and she IS on it twice (applies lip gloss)
and she's READY to assume the title of Miss America if us unable...
Killer Yapp: That's Miss America, and you aren't even Miss Congeniality. Sit! Stay!Give me one of the new Parisienne biscuits.

Well ANYWAY, here's the link to where you can vote for this blog if you'd like,
and another place to vote again.

To quote Mayor Daley, vote early, vote often.

Why The Sunday Times is Nitwit of the New Year-update

Several Snarklings have commented on this:

New York Times January 4, 2006
Rejected by the Publishers

Submitted to 20 publishers and agents, the typed manuscripts of the opening chapters of two books were assumed to be the work of aspiring novelists. Of 21 replies, all but one were rejections. Sent by The Sunday Times of London, the manuscripts were the opening chapters of novels that won Booker Prizes in the 1970's. One was "Holiday," by Stanley Middleton; the other was "In a Free State," by Sir V. S. Naipaul, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Mr. Middleton said he wasn't surprised. "People don't seem to know what a good novel is nowadays," he said. Mr. Naipaul said: "To see something is well written and appetizingly written takes a lot of talent, and there is not a great deal of that around. With all the other forms of entertainment today, there are very few people around who would understand what a good paragraph is."

First of all, let's just point out the obvious. No one thinks agents and publishers are infallible. Not even agents and publishers. We KNOW we miss good stuff. We miss it once a day, every day and twice on Sunday. It's one of the reasons every agent in the known universe (a universe clearly ignored by those flaming bags of dog poop at the Sunday Times) says "query other agents. What's not right for us can be just what the other guy is looking for."

So, we miss stuff. So fucking what.

And now that we know this is one of those specious exercises set up to tut tut about the abject state of letters in the cold cruel modern world, let's look at what they actually did.

They sent two typed chapters from novels written in the early 1970s. They sent them "written by aspiring novelists". Now, what's the one thing I've been howling about since the inception of this blog, if not the inception of the universe? All together now: "fresh and new".

Sending dated writing is pretty much guaranteed a no.

Next, cover letter. I bet they didn't try too hard to make it sound enticing. All of the press reports I've seen on this don't even mention the cover letters. If this work is from aspiring novelists, did they invent publication credits? Did they invent anything to make it sound like this writer was anything but someone writing like it was 1971?

Next, let's just step right over the fact that if any of the folks reading this recognized it, they are going to pass. Even if they don't recognize the actual words as "oh this is from that novel that won the Booker -before I was born!" if it sounds derivative...you BET your ass it's a no. Can anyone say Bear Bryant's Funeral Train? Rejection letters are not the place anyone says "you sound like you're channeling Booker Prize winners from 1971". "not for us" is the only thing anyone says then. If the Sunday Times doesn't know that..well, of course they know that. That's one of the reasons they're flaming bags of dog poop for this stunt.

Next, the idea that they just send it over the transom to publishers is insane. Particularly in big publishing houses, it won't get looked at. If anything, this just underscores why you DO need an agent if you want to be published by a big publisher.

Next, I pass on really good stuff all the time, with a form letter even, if my list is full. They sent this to ten agents. I'm going to guess, cause I don't know who they sent it to, that they chose well known ones. Yup, the very folks LEAST likely to take on "aspiring writers"...cause they are busy representing VS Naipaul.

And last: to assume that this proves agents don't recognize quality is bunk. If anything it proves exactly what I've been saying: agents are interested in what SELLS. Now, I don't have sales figures for these books....given they were published 35 years ago it would be very difficult to get them. But I'll tell you this: pick a literary novel, any literary novel even from a Nobel Prize winner, and "respectable sales" over the course of YEARS is the height of achievement. Most of them sink like rocks. Rocks similar to the ones in the heads of the Sunday Times editor who let this article run.

Of COURSE these books didn't fly. The news would have been if they had, cause pigs would have been next.

And furthermore: from the comments trail comes this excellent point--the people who are going to suck up this article and spew it out in their marketing pitches are those scam artists at the vanity mills. Thanks a lot Sunday Times...you've just made the problem worse.


Page 123 Meme!

I'm lollygagging around the blogosphere today, which usually translates to clicking on the links in my email to see what the cat drags in. As usual, some pretty fun stuff.

From one of my usual haunts, Tribe's blog, comes this:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

By a very strange sequence of events I have a book open that produces this on page 123:

Yet on holding the verso against a lit rush this new book of Morses responded most remarkably to the silent query of our worlds oldest light and its recto let out the piquant fact that it was but pierced butnot punctured (in the university sense of the term) by numerous stabs and foliated gashes made by a pronged instrument.

A couple of clues: it's not something from my slush pile. It is published. It's currently in print.

Any brave guessers out there amongst the Snarklings? And if you want to cheat and google, go ahead of course, but it takes the fun out of the game.

Crapometer got you feeling bruised and blue?

Take heart; you didn't make this list...did you?

All true excerpts from stories submitted to Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. (Spelling, punctuation, and syntax are all as in the originals.)

Out of the dark void came what looked like a giant rabbit followed by small rabbits which had looked as if they had undergone a mutation with three ears and 2 tails. They discovered they were on Rabbitania.

Weston was known for the firm but genital hold he had on his men. It was one of the reasons he was chosen for this mission over six other equally qualified men.

Freddy was in the habit of staring at Beverly's legs as they peaked from her Susie Wong slit dresses. She had a dozen of them.

"Something must have happened, since it's not like her to come back naked and not aware of anything."

The eyes of the braver animals ran down my neck and spine.

"Bastard! I shall severe your soul."

The afternoon was very calm but consolidated. The birds were singing but were not blithesome.

He groped in his trousers and came up with a dirty piece of trash which I thought he'd just throw away.

"Stand slow!" a voice rang out with hollow ubiquity.

When I thought of the poetics of such a confrontation in the blackness of eternity, I laughed sardonically, in a dry voice, to myself.

"Good morning, Anna, Lovely maid," Logo said in a soft voice bowing slightly, "How nice to see your structured form again today."

The two naked bodies, which were lying beneath the satin sheets, were no longer the people whom everyone, who was anyone, knew whenever reality was in existance.

"Oovil snetch," he growled in his mind.

My shouted words were lost in the damp chill, and my legs were already beginning to bale out, filling my shoes quickly.

The willowy king stood tehre with his usually sick disposition. From the faint light in the hallway, his yellow glaring cat eyes pointed at him.

Kildo threw his waning arms around the large granite boulder.

Miles looked deep into those clear blue eyes who's debts were infinite.

"Be good," he called after her as he bit back the tears in his eyes.

Sudenly, all the eyes in the room rose from their fixed positions on the floor to stare at him.

Mona was on the liquilounge, her dark eyes pouring over him like warm jello.

John wasn't at all surprised at the transformation of his body into what he believed were light waves.

Fearless, as he was dumb, he walked over to the edge of the ship.

"Are the shields contoured to the ship" the computer asked breathlessly.

The universe is a vast region of deep mystery steeped in antiquity.

"Do you want to come over and have a gunfight?" I asked. He seemed a bit loath to answer.

They were human in every way but they owned the necks, heads, facial expressions were that of a chicken.

"Ejaculations aside, that's one hell of a package to swallow!"

Of course, his eyes couldn't help but embrace the pool in front of them.

Jake was not a man to show much emotion, but he found himself supressing the urge to smile out loud.

Ashala's head felt like vermicelli slowly slipping off the platter of her sholders.

A pool of surpressedd sweat started building under his forehead.

Kincaid was an older man with sparse grey iron hair.

And he was damned attractive physically, too. When she looked at him she felt...unusual.

Instinctively, without thinking about it, he grabbed the woman and hugged her and then gave her breasts a couple of playful pinches. "Commander please," she said as she blushed and began yodeling.

He gazed at what appeared to be an invisable column coming from an infinite distance.

Onion oil! I couldn't imagine anyting worse than a daily bath in onion oil.

He was tall, thin and bony, like a cadaver trying to remember something,

what was it? oh yes! I'm dead, I shouldn't be walking around like this.

There would not be many more darknesses before Lyra became a guardian,
and if sheh was going to keep hes promises that she would still boil boldy
as a guardian, she might as well practice.

Talan gestured at the controls. "Overheating of the glycgroms in the thermoperamulator. You know how it is."

She is powdered, painted, and tearful, playing again one of her greatest rolls.

The man spoke a foreign tonuge to them which they followed with out question.

The faces of the children were tear stained and pained Zone Paw to move on.

Are you going to go up t her and say, (you have to pardon me I'm form another planet, Let's get together for a life spand.)" The dwarf came back strongly.

"Marry me my beautiful moonlight Luna to this sun-born, non-stop make and viola!"

It seems occasionally events occur which had they not happened no one would
imagine they could.

It ws a planet spinning around Proxima Centauri, an Earth like planet covered with an average of two miles of water.

On Nov. 29, 2083 the object wold hit. It's antimatter would interact with ordinary matter on Earth and there would be an explosion with the incredible force of 1000 megatons. New York City is doomed!

"Corporeal, we've got to do our best to keep this from the public."
"I know sir, but its already too late."
What do you mean, the general inquired?
"While you were gone I let a curious private in on the secret."
"We've got to stop him."
By now he's long gone. Sorry sir."
"Oh no."

He saw the cute way her curly hair floated on her head.

Kree's voice grabbed my heart from behind.

A large serf of joy rode under Lisa's face.

Sublimely, this time, and just by feel, light was even dimmer inside the war machine than merely beneath the overhang that had been gutted out for it keeping its resplendency restrained.

Despite the different meanings conjured up in each other's head when the other spoke he knew that in this instance his image was hers.

Then his head, which supported his bushy brown hair, turned to look at his sister.

It was kind of bazaar for him to see his sister holding the arm of a semi-automatic machine gun.

Most people who have seen Dr. Robinson describes him as a strange looking man with coal black hare and a a coal black mustache.
( Was he too from Rabbitania?)

I caress her cheek. She shutters.

He whetted his lips.

(thanks to a Snarkling for the list!)

Happy Birthday JRR Tolkien!

After reading all those synopses the life of a hobbit sounds quite appealing.
Here, from one of my favorite daily emails, the Writers Almanac, comes this:

It's the birthday of J.R.R. (John Ronald Reuel) Tolkien, born in South Africa (1892). His family came back to England after his father died and his mother taught him Latin and converted him to Catholicism. She died when he was twelve and friends said he stayed a Catholic and continued to study languages in her memory.

He went on to philology, or the study of the derivation of languages, at Oxford, and it was there that he met his friend C.S. Lewis. Lewis later said, "At my first coming into the world, I had been warned never to trust a [Catholic], and at my first coming into the English Faculty, never to trust a philologist. Tolkien was both." Despite Lewis' suspicion they took to one another right away and with a number of other men formed The Inklings, a group of writers who met in a local pub each week to talk about books and read aloud what they'd been writing. Lewis and Tolkien often talked late into the night about the idea that books could be "morally serious fantasy," dressing correct theology in the clothing of a ripping good tale.

Tolkien's idea for a novel came from his love for language. He was fluent in Classical Greek and Latin, Old Norse, Old English, medieval Welsh and Anglo-Saxon and an ancient form of German called Gothic, among other ancient European languages. He was so interested in the structure of language that he decided to invent an entire language of his own. He even invented a new alphabet to write in that language and when he began writing Lord of the Rings, he gave that new language to the Elves calling it "High Elvish." He later said, "I wrote Lord of the Rings to provide a world for the language... I should have preferred to write the entire book in Elvish."

Many critics now consider Lord of the Rings to be one of the greatest fantasy novels ever written. It's the story of Bilbo Baggins, a lowly hobbit who sets out on a quest to destroy a magic ring so that it cannot fall into the hands of the evil Sauron.

It took Tolkien twelve years to write The Lord of the Rings, in part because he was a great procrastinator and refused to take any time off to work on the book. He was constantly stopping his writing in order to research various details he wanted to include, such as the proper way to stew a rabbit. He wrote to his editor more than once to say that he wasn't sure he could finish the book, but after twelve years he had finally done it. He wrote, "It is written... in my life-blood."

Tolkien wasn't sure anyone would want to read The Lord of the Rings since it was hardly the children's book his editor had asked for. He wrote, "My work has escaped from my control. I have produced a monster... a complex, rather bitter and rather terrifying romance. I now wonder whether many beyond my friends would read anything so long."

The book was moderately successful when the first volume came out in 1954, but it didn't become a huge bestseller until the 1960's when American college students fell in love with it and psychedelic rock bands like Led Zeppelin began writing songs about it. Tolkein never enjoyed having become a cult figure in his own lifetime. He tried to live quietly for the rest of his life.

J.R.R. Tolkein said, "Literature stops in 1100. After that it's only books."

He once said, "I am in fact, a hobbit in all but size. I like gardens, trees and unmechanized farmlands. I smoke a pipe and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking. I am fond of mushrooms (out of a field).... I go to bed late and get up late (when possible). I do not travel much."

Snarkling Anthem!!!!

Miss Snark, Thanks for your heroic effort of the past week.

The Snarklings' Anthem:

With a slosh and a clank of our pails full of gin,
Let the song of the satisfied Snarklings begin!
Synopses in shreds at our feet like confetti,
We cower before the steelplated stilletti.
Yet our mistress is merciful, gentle and kind.
When she tells us it sux, well, we really don't mind.
She is helping us learn all the tricks that it takes
To avoid making horrible nitwit mistakes.
So all hail to Miss Snark, let our praises ring clear,
And we wish her a prosperous, happy New Year!
(And a note on the side to that rogue, Mr. Clooney
If you don't see her worth, then you're really a looney!)



Miss Snark is blowing her pitch pipe and preparing to sing along.
Thank you!!


That's All for the Crapometer!

99! Holy moly Snarklings! Gotta tell ya, I'll never do this again.
I'd probably do synopses again (but not soon) but I'll never do this many.

We had 107 entries, 99 crossed the finish line.
Some were tossed overboard for excess word count, a couple for being not-synopsis.

As you can see it took seven days to do it all, and I didn't do much else. Oh, a pail of gin here and there but not much work.

I conclude from the emails and the comment trail that it was generally helpful. I learned a lot myself too. (I now know what a mage is! and to never try to out run a werewolf)

And if you're having trouble posting comments, it may be because blogger has this blog on "spam alert" after all the posts. I've written to them to say I'm real, and not trying to sell penis enlargers from Nigeria, but it may take them awhile to answer.

And I really really want to emphasize how pleasantly surprised I am that no one, not one single person, wrote back to say "Miss Snark you stink". You really handled some pretty snarky comments with a lot of grace. I have a lot of respect for people who can do that.

I'm now off to lie on the couch, swill gin, and read the Times. I'm probably not going to post much for the coming week, but I'll quit deleting your questions unread.

Here's to a happy and prosperous new year for us all!
Snark On!

#99 Crapometer

Category: dog-geral

There once was a poodle named Yapp
who discovered his synopsis was crap
His jot and his tiddle, upon which were piddled
was rejected as cliche ridden fat.

words fail me

#98 Crapometer

literary fiction

“Lesbian, lesbian, lesbian,” April Riley imagines herself intoning for two years in a remote African hut: maybe by the time her Peace Corps service is up she’ll have gotten used to saying it – and being one. Then she can worry about coming out to her Born Again parents. Cathy Rudge, April’s only friend on this nascent trip to Africa, is ten years and a messy marriage older than any of the other recruits; her wandering husband came home after two years away, just when Cathy had given up and joined the Peace Corps. Recruits only get 80 pounds of luggage to carry onto the flight, but both women have plenty they’re trying to leave behind.

Their immersion in francophone Togo begins before the Air Afrique flight hits the tarmac. They are pressed in on all sides by a vibrant, chaotic world and met at the airport by their teacher, Henri, whose robes and deep facial scars seem the height of the exotic. But Stanford-educated Henri is plagued by family troubles and disagreements with the Peace Corps director, kept hidden from the Americans the way he hides his fluent English. The Volunteers’ three month training is to be a highly regimented, French-only experience. Too bad neither Cathy nor April can speak much French.

On an early assignment, April spends a week in an inhospitable village, an experience made worse by her uncooperative Volunteer host, her own clumsy French, and someone’s truly abysmal cooking. The chef in question turns out to be Gwendolyn, a transplant from English-speaking Ghana, as misplaced and as lonely as April is. Whether April’s ready to be a lesbian or not, she’s falling in love.

After a grueling month of training, Cathy still hasn’t heard from her husband. The trainees are forbidden to leave the village and reminded of a cardinal Peace Corps rule: any Volunteer caught riding a bicycle without a helmet will have her service terminated. Yet, hoping to use a phone in another village, Cathy and April sneak out. Cathy is unable to contact her husband and fears he’s, yet again, being unfaithful.

Having broken Peace Corps rules once, April goes AWOL to Gwendolyn’s village at her next opportunity. There, she discovers a new law, requiring fishermen to obtain a permit in the distant capital city, has sunk Gwendolyn and her children into poverty. They can’t afford the travel, nor the permit itself, so are forced to fish illegally at night, risking being shot by the gendarmes who patrol the area.

The Peace Corps assigns April and Cathy to work in neighboring villages, they move to Cathy’s house for the last phase of training, studying the tribal language with Henri. Henri inexplicably avoids meeting with the tribal chief; this rudeness creates havoc in the tribe. Further complicating their visit is the Prefet, a government functionary who was once a school rival of Henri’s and is now visibly delighted with his new power over Henri and his American trainees.

“When I had my daughter,” Henri tells Cathy and April, “I swore that I would not cut her cheeks with the balafre.” And he touched the gouges on his cheeks, marking him as a member of the tribe. “How could you cut your baby’s skin?” But his mother stole his daughter away when Henri was off teaching for the Peace Corps, and she cut the scars into the girl’s face herself, wounds which still have not healed. Henri has been unable to face his mother, now wife of the chief, ever since.

As soon as training is over, April moves not to Henri’s uncle’s village, but to Gwendolyn’s. Gwendolyn has gotten sick and is struggling to take care of her children. Cathy is left to cover for April’s absence, which becomes impossible in the face of the Prefet’s pressure and the rising anger from the village chief.

Gwendolyn’s village life is shattered when a truckload of gendarmes arrive, drunk, torching fishing boats and nets, as well as the permits each family worked so hard to obtain. April tries to intervene but the soldiers, unhappy to have an American witness their violence, arrest her. April evades them only long enough to help Gwendolyn, now very ill, into bed, where she kills herself by overdosing on the very pain medications April has brought her.

Cathy, now in regular correspondence with her husband, is growing homesick and increasingly frustrated with her village situation. Not sure what has happened to April, she answers a strange summons to the remote house where April, dazed and worried about Gwendolyn’s children, awaits the Peace Corps director and her certain deportation. Desperate to stay, April asks Cathy to convince Henri to speak with his uncle, hoping the chief can appeal the Peace Corps on her behalf. But asking for his mother and uncle’s help requires Henri forgive what they did to his daughter.

Henri approaches his mother for the first time since she cut his daughter; he also sends Cathy to ask the Prefet to exert his influence as well. Speaking with the pompous man, who clearly delights in the failings of the Americans, Cathy realizes that the thing he values most is his reputation and his power. Her only chance of saving April’s Peace Corps service is to forfeit her own, gambling that the Prefet would avoid the humiliation of losing all of the Americans under his jurisdiction.

Cathy sets off on her bicycle, into the desert, without a helmet, on the one paved road the director must take to bring April back to the capital. Sure to see her, he should, by his own threat, deport her for breaking this rule. Cathy hopes his pride, like the Prefet’s, will force him to chose to deport one Volunteer instead of two. When his van stops for Cathy, he’s irate, but his choice is clear: he will let April stay. Cathy will be the one to go home.

This is just plain excellent.

#97 Crapometer

Title: A Golden Forever
Genre: Historical Romance

His golden body bought his passage to manhood, but it was a price he vowed he would never pay again. Of course, never frequently arrives when one least expects it.

The man variously known as Sky Who Walks, Colton Simon Haversham and Colt Star hated everything Indian and everything English. Being both, he hated himself most of all. The bastard son of an English Earl and an Crow Indian, Colt grew up under the watchful eye of the stepfather who named him "Sky Who Walks" as a reminder of the sky blue eyes that proclaimed he would never really belong to the tribe. After his Mother was stolen by rival warriors, Sky disobeyed his stepfather to try to rescue her and ended up burying her mutilated body when he failed.

He returned to find himself disowned by the stepfather happy to rid himself of the bastard. Alone and without so much as a teepee to shield him from the elements, let alone weapons to hunt with, young Sky soon found himself starving as he faced the approach of winter's icy menace. (cliche alert! circle the wagons!) He was bathing in the river when a widowed squaw caught sight of his developing manly form. (manly form! yikes!) She offered food in exchange for the use of all that golden glory. A choice between the certain death he faced and selling his body was really no choice at all, and soon the widows of the tribe alternated weeks with the lad.

Sky survived by selling his sexual favors for food and shelter until the father who abandoned the squaw he had impregnated showed up one day to fetch the unwilling bastard back to England. Colton Simon Haversham found that the lovely ladies of the ton had much in common with the squaws, for they wanted the same service. This time, he sold his body for social acceptance. The day arrived when one lady wanted ownership and faked her own compromise. He returned to find a printed announcement of his upcoming nuptuals. He refused to wed the lady he had never touched, and was again disowned. He departed his father's house, vowing never to tread English soil again.

(I feel the same way after the London Book Fair myself)

Taking a new name for a new life, Colt Star worked his way to San Francisco on a ship, and discovered that he was good at gambling. Later, those gambling instincts proved profitable at business too and he and his partners fared well at their shipping enterprise and in their gambling parlor. When a soiled dove wanted to trade her silk sheets for a picket fence, Colt decided it was time to move on. The partners bought a gold claim, a house and a lot in Hangtown from a gambler who conveniently appeared at just the right moment.

As it happened, the convenience being served was that of Colt's father who had concocted the scheme to get his son back. Lord Haversham looked over all the fair flowers of the ton to find Lady Viv, an ice princess who clearly awaited the right man to free her fire. (free her fire!! woo hoo!) Viv wanted to carve an independent future for herself, and he saw in her desires a way to arrange a second chance for himself with the son who didn't believe in them. He sent her to Hangtown, knowing that her fiery beauty, independent soul and buried passion would soon enough awaken the desire and then the possessive instincts of his stubborn son. Of course, sending the ice princess to the son armed with a pick wasn't very fair of him, but the Earl was playing to win.

He knew his son's hatred of everything English and his warrior's disdain for cages would prompt him to reject the lady, sending her sailing for home. Colt wouldn't know what he had lost until it was gone, and the young man who left vowing never to return would show up at his door wiser and more tolerant for having learned the value of second chances first hand.

The Earl wasn't surprised when the ice princess reappeared among the ton with tempting glowing embers of passion lurking beneath the ice, but none of the rakes could light that fire. Only one man had ever been able to do that. When Colt arrived, she couldn't trust him but she couldn't resist the only man who stoked her flames. Their passion was his only weapon, and he let her use his to create the kind of public display he had promised himself he would never again allow. Just when passion built a bridge back to the love he had thrown away, a disgruntled Duke abducted the lady, knowing she would draw the savage he wanted most of all.

The braves of the tribe had demanded a high price for the meat that young Sky's growing body required, but years of nightmares had cemented his vow that he would never pay that price again. When the demonic Duke demanded that he choose between watching him rape of Viv,(rape of Viv??) or offering his body in her place, Colt found himself living his nightmares in full view of his lady.

He knew that Viv would never be able to respect him after seeing him take what the Duke was dishing out. He sent her away so that he could end his quest for survival and had his revolver in hand when Viv arrived and taught him that assumptions can be fatal. She showed him that a smart man should not assume he knows what his woman is feeling and then try to protect her from her pain. Colt learned that perhaps women had some justification for harping on the virtues of communication.

She knew the lesson was temporary at best. He'd forget again, as all men did, but she would be there, happily ensconced in their cage for two, spending a golden forever saving him from himself.

You need to get after this synopsis with a hatchet and trim off all the deadwood. First, it’s rife with cliche. Second, you’re so busy telling us about the fire in everyone’s loins that you give us about twice as many words as you need. Save the manly forms and loin fires for the novel. Here we just need to know everyone's hot to trot with Colt.

Other than that, this isn’t bad.

#96 Crapometer

Genre: Science Fiction

Synopsis of - The Discovering of Demons

From the tranquility of his lakeside home, LUQA DRENDUN is sent to Zetjun Cathedral to learn the politics of his world. Eight years old, and heir to Desmondia, the young prince is taught Desmondian statecraft at his Grandsire’s wing. BRYKAC DRENDUN rules his people by fear, calling on the dark god, K'uni, whom Brykac feeds with those who displease him. As Luqa grows up and his popularity climbs, Brykac undermines and humiliates Luqa every opportunity he can.

so, is Brykac Luqa’s grandsire? and he has wings? cause metaphors like that don’t work if it’s science fiction. You say wing here, I’m thinking it’s real wings.

And if you give a character wings, you want to let them fly. That's akin to the old adage about showing a gun in the first act and having it fire by the third. What good are wings if you have a spaceship hauling you everywhere?

Blaming humans for his exile and the downfall of his people, Luqa takes out his angst (I think you mean anger, no one takes out their angst on people except Woody Allen) upon Colonel JONAS BRIERLY, who he captures on the world of Cavan. Five hundred years earlier, war had seen Earth all but destroyed and Desmondia decimated. Yet the war had been initiated by the Cavalana, hybrid flying creatures, half-Desmondis and half-human.

I thought Luqa was learning state craft with Gramps? How did he get exiled?

Two burning questions occupy Luqa's mind - how human and Desmondis could combine and create a viable race, and how humans had defeated the Desmondis. In his search for answers, Luqa captures, Haron, a young Cavalana, who share his prison with Jonas.

Luqa proceeds to torture Jonas; for Haron he has other plans other (other plans other?? LAZY ASS EDITING!!!) than investigating his physiology. He drugs and seduces the young Cavalana, much to Haron's horror

As he learned cruelty at his Grandsire’s knee, so Luqa metes it out upon Haron. Yet he becomes disgusted by himself, and when Haron turns upon him, Luqa barely fights, seeing Haron's attack as justice for his actions and a way of assuaging guilt.

ok, here’s the big problemo du jour. This doesn’t make sense. If he’s becoming disgusted with himself we should see reference to it earlier. Last thing we saw about his state of mind was he was ready to torture Jonas.

And quit starting sentences with As, Yet, From, With and preposition-like things. It usually means you’re opening with a subordinate clause and it’s weak.

With the tables turned, Haron and Jonas find themselves in the bizarre situation of tending the Desmondis prince. Even so, they take advantage of Luqa's drugged and weakened state to question him and find out about his life. Horrified by Luqa's tale of abuse and cruelty, the tale changes their perception of him, and although they cannot forgive his treatment they begin to understand the person.

Surprises keep coming when ANASTASIA reveals herself. The most gorgeous Cavalana Haron has ever seen, she tells them she is Luqa's daughter from the human Brykac raped and beat to death. She is very young yet has an uncanny and adult intelligence, and Haron finds himself quickly drawn to her. Yet, this only adds to his dilemmas over his faith and existence.

Reveals herself?? WTF? Where? in the glass darkly? Telepathically? She just turns up riding a white horse?

And wait a second here: faith and existence?? When did we start talking about that?

As Haron seeks his god, so Anastasia takes her revenge. For years she has resented Luqa taking her from Desmondia and has been drugging the Desmondis prince. When Luqa is accused of attempting to murder Haron, Anastasia begs him to flee into the jungles of Cavan where Luqa undergoes a horrific torment withdrawing from drugs. As he lies dying, Anastasia gives him har'khiennen, the Cavalana blood change, not sure what will happen.

Are you sure it’s not Harkonnes and he’ll become a big worm?

When Haron regains his senses he knows it was not Luqa who tried to kill him but Anastasia. He goes in search of her and Luqa and finds Jonas already confronting Ana. During a fight, Haron kills Ana, but not before she has bitten Jonas, which starts an instant chain reaction within any human, turning them into Cavalana, and when Haron finds Luqa, underneath the dark desmondis skin he finds another Cavalana.

When the Zeta arrives on Cavan, IRAYNA ROBERTSON heads a team to look for Jonas. After she finds him, she tells him they have a Desmondian vessel aboard. Jonas asks Luqa to question them. The exiled prince is reluctant, but he goes aboard and discovers that he did not succeed in killing Brykac and that Brykac is building troops and ships to start a war against humans. Knowing Brykac cannot succeed, and hoping to save his peoples' lives, Luqa joins the Zeta in a trip to Desmondia. Jonas and Haron, go with him.

Not all Desmondis agree with Brykac's policies. J'HERA FARHAN has plans of his own, and when Luqa and the human ship arrive he agrees to aid them in an attack on Zetjun Cathedral, the province of Desmondian aristocracy. With sparks already flying between Luqa and Irayna, deciding on a plan is difficult, but when it is agreed upon, Irayna leads one of the attacks on Zetjun. During it, she is captured by Brykac while Luqa leads his own troops to victory. After he makes sure he kills Brykac, he claims the Desmondian throne for his son not himself, and all seems well until an old adherent of Brykac's murders Ghazen on his coronation day. Despite his altered appearance, Luqa's people want him for king. Reluctantly he accepts.

With Desmondia secure and great hope for future peaceful relations, Irayna returns to her ship. It is Jonas who confronts her, asking why she won't act on her own feelings for Luqa. After she wants no male of any sort but cannot deny what she feels. (what??) She goes back to Desmondia and Luqa, but not before asking Haron for har'khiennen. At a house by a lakeside she speaks with Luqa and he reveals his own feelings.

Haron will return to Cavan, but not before going to Beriabic, now the main colony. Jonas will continue as a diplomat between Desmondia, Cavan and Beriabic. And so begins the start of a hopeful future for races driven apart by war yet connected by genes.

Too much detail. Not enough over arching framework. You might have a good novel here but this needs a hair cut.

#95 Crapometer

Genre: Dark Urban Fantasy

Once, Owen chose to walk in shadows. Emasculated by fright as his parents were slaughtered by a monster, Owen has become a freelance soldier in an underground war on the supernatural. But as the years pass, the blood seeps too deep – attacking a family of werewolves, Owen executes the mother as she pleads for the life of her child, and realizes he slipped so far into the nightmare that he's become one of the monsters.

so, killing werewolves is bad?

With her life savings of $187 in her pocket, Emma is driving to the big city in search of adventure and the unknown. When her car breaks down, two men stop to help. While passing by, Owen recognizes the men as monsters. He crashes into the scene, the men warp into werewolves and Emma races away with Owen. Furious at the loss of their prey, the creatures track them.

Owen meets with a young woman named Darkness from the Goth Mob, a gang of hackers and freaks. The werewolves stalking them attack. One of the beasts survives and tracks them to the Rev, a nightclub run by Ted, the head of the Goth Mob. Ted sees the intrusion as a violation of his fragile truce with the monsters, and executes the beast. Owen learns that the Goths have a small supply of a human virus, a serum which turns monster-infected cells human. Owen is infatuated with Emma, and Emma is quickly seduced by the excitement and adventure of Owen's lifestyle.

Yup, being stalked by werewolves is the very definition of excitement and adventure.

"Owen is infatuated with Emma" does not logically proceed from "Owen learns the Goths have a small supply of a human virus". Unless of course Emma is a virus.

Elsewhere in the city, James Pagan is hunting a werewolf in the city. (you’ve got the location twice--this is sloppy ass editing) When it attacks a group of children, James charges in and kills the beast, but is fatally wounded. Pagan is resurrected by Julian, the king of vampires, and his entourage of vampire children. He is reborn as Pagan, and like Julian, is now an embodiment of the God of the Dark. His flesh is infested with living shadows – intelligent, malignant black tentacles. The shadows give strength and power, but slowly consume flesh, mind and soul unless fed with atrocities. James Pagan's mind divides – into James, the man riddled with the guilt of failing to save his own family from the monsters; and Pagan, the walking incarnation of death.

Gerald, the King of Wolves, is enraged by the killing at the Rev and attacks the Goth Mob. Julian's captive psychic divines the werewolves' move, and the vampires race to blindside the wolves.

In the battle of the Rev, Owen is badly injured while protecting Emma. Overcome by the fever of combat, Emma leaves Owen behind and rushes into the violence. Pagan comes upon Owen, and the two are shocked by a moment of perfect empathy: Pagan sees Owen as himself before succumbing to Julian, and Owen sees the man trapped within the beast. The monsters retreat when Ted triggers ultrasonics and ultraviolet lights.

Slaughtered and in shock, the Goths try to pick up the pieces.

If you're slaughtered you're dead. Even here. Hard to pick up the pieces if you're dead.

James reawakens inside of Pagan, and refuses to feed. The shadows feed on him. Armies gather. (again here, one from the other does not flow)

Owen and Darkness convalesce together, and their friendship deepens. Separately, they each steal a dose of the last of the human serum. Ted's hackers crack satellites and pinpoint small groups of werewolves by their heat signatures. Emma joins Ted's raids and revels in the power of violence, redefining herself and bonding with Ted. When a raid goes bad, both Emma and Ted are bitten, but tell no one.

Owen and Darkness become lovers, and dream of a fresh start. But to deserve a new life, Owen feels obligated to save Emma, and James Pagan. When he sees Emma's drastic evolution, Owen is enraged at the corruption of his beautiful, innocent waif and lashes out at her, driving Emma away. Owen keeps clandestine his plan to use his stolen dose of the human serum on Pagan.

Clandestine is an adjective, not an adverb. It modifies a noun, not a verb. Keep is a verb.

On the next Full Moon, Gerald lures the vampires and Goths into a trap. The gangs' armies gather in an enormous warehouse, in the basement of which is secreted a horde of freshly turned werewolves who've been chummed into a frenzy. But when the berserkers are unleashed, they attack vampire, werewolf and human alike.

Gerald flees. Julian and Pagan pursue him. Wounded grievously, Owen follows.

Ted warps into a beast and Darkness executes him. Suddenly fearful of going through the Change alone, and certain that he will understand and join her, Emma tracks Owen.

Weakened by his refusal to feed, Pagan summons the power to kill Gerald by allowing the Dark to consume his heart, and with it – his soul.

Owen offers Pagan the serum, but sensing the freedom in the impending loss of his humanity, Pagan shatters the syringe in contempt.

Emma finds Owen and bites him, then professes her love. Owen kills her.

Darkness finds Owen, who is delirious with despair – he has failed to save Emma, Pagan, or himself. Darkness laughs with joy as she tries to extricate the final stolen dose of serum from her pocket, but Owen says "Darkness, I love you," places his father's gun to his temple and pulls the trigger.

Julian advances to sup on the blood and Darkness shoots him. Julian rips her gun away and she injects him with the serum. Shocked by the sudden flood of humanity and, Julian's shadows devour him. (what??) Julian dies screaming into the black.

Realizing the inevitable price of the Dark and feeling the shadows crawl through the last of his still-vulnerable heart, James Pagan commands Darkness to pick up her gun, and charges her. Darkness snatches her shotgun and fires into his chest until Pagan's heart is shredded out and he dies before the Dark can consume him.

Darkness is sickened and casts away her guns. She walks off into the sunrise, to start a new life. To create a new fate.

oookay. Who exactly is the protaganist here? You’ve got one “person” left standing at the end, and it’s NOT the one who gets the most airplay above. Do I detect the scent of sequel?

You’ve fallen into the by now familiar trap of too many characters and events. Focus on the main things that happen. Tell me what’s important or interesting about this. Clean up the editing. More than anything else, lazy ass editing makes me say no. These aren't typos; they're examples of not reading your work carefully enough.

#94 Crapometer

Coming of Age Fiction

THE BAD GIRL'S CLUB (the title doesn’t refer to anything nor to a theme in what you’ve written here; that always makes me nervous)

Sixteen-year-old Destiny lives with her mother, father, and five-year-old sister, Cassidy. On the outside, they appear a normal family but something is terribly wrong. Five years earlier, Mom kidnapped the two girls and tried to abandon her youngest on the edge of a cliff at Crater Lake. Destiny saved her sister but her role with her mother was reversed and, at eleven, she became the caretaker of the family. For five years the family hid their secret but Mom became progressively more insane.

You don’t kidnap your own children. What’s wrong with her father?

When Mom hits a lady over the head with a chair and is both arrested and hospitalized, Destiny cries out for help from her father because she knows that she will be the one who carries the brunt of her mother's care. She feels like she is going to go over the edge, but her father can't see that and he ignores her pleas. Obsession takes hold of Destiny and she abandons her best friend and her boyfriend to save her mother and sister.

I thought the mother was hospitalized and arrested? Why is she forced to abandon her best friend and boyfriend? (And I really hope the mother wasn't bopping Miss Snark on the bean for ripping apart synopses)

The woman that Destiny knew is gone and what's left is a shell of a woman who's like a time bomb that can go off at any moment. (shell of a woman and time bomb are contradictory states of mind) She takes up residence in the living room and stares at the walls most of the day. Destiny slips into a deep depression, develops stomach problems, loses weight, and begins to have delusions that color her mind even when she is awake. She is sure that she's losing her mind but the madness and its power seduce her, so she gives in. Her sister starts talking to her imaginary friend, Podos, a large dark man with wings who she says lives in their house. Sometimes Destiny can see him and she is convinced that he is destroying her mother.

When Grandma arrives to help, she can see that the whole family is crumbling and that Destiny, especially, is slipping away. When Destiny tells her that her mom told her that she killed her little sister, Leena, when she was eleven, Grandma decides it's time to put Mom in the psychiatric hospital. Destiny insists that the story is true. Grandma insists that it's all a big lie. Destiny pulls away from everyone, even her mother and imagines joining her mother in her insanity. But she begins to realize, after a lecture from Grandma, that she is letting her life slip away. She is trapped between saving her mother or saving herself.

Surely someone would know if Leena is alive or not?

Finally, Mom takes Cassidy as a prisoner in her studio, intending to kill her. Destiny realizes that everyone is out of control, including her, and that she cannot save her mother, so she decides to save her sister and herself. When she and Dad get into the studio through a window, she takes her sister to Grandma. She goes back to the house because she knows that Mom will be leaving the next day for the psychiatric hospital. She finally gives up trying to hold it all together and realizes that she will have to go on without her mother and make a life of her own. She feels like an incredible failure.

That night her mother sets fire to the house, maiming herself for life. She ends up in a psychiatric hospital, Dad is prosecuted for child abuse, Destiny goes on with Cassidy and they get their lives together with Grandma.

You’ve got two contradictory things running here: Destiny losing her mind, and Destiny being the only sane one in the household. In failing to distinguish those two states of mind for her, the character is confusing to me. Is she hallucinating? Why should we believe Grandma anyway? Is Leena alive? Do we ever know?

Resolving the conflict with “she realizes” is cheating. What makes her realize this? And if the house is on fire, how does she get out?

Even when you make stuff up, you have to get all the details just right so we’re focused on the things you want us to be thinking about, not wondering why something doesn’t make sense.

#93 Crapometer

Genre: Chick lit suspense



LYNN BROADMORE, by day is a normal thirty-year-old accounting assistant in Wichita, Kansas. She does her job, gets along with most of her co-workers, and drools over JACK EDWARDS, the newest member of the department.

By night, Lynn is no longer Lynn, but HUSH, the webmaster of slayerdomain.com, a Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan fiction archive. She’s crash, (crash?) blunt, and downright wild with her website, writing NC-17 stories about characters, and generally having fun with other Buffy fans. Lynn’s online life is a secret from everyone at work, including Jack, until he sees her working on it, and sneaks a peak.

The entire premise of the novel hinges on Jack not only knowing what Lynn does in her spare time but also that she's in danger from it. To say it's a secret till he finds out at this moment makes the rest of the plot ludicrous.

Lynn and Jack start seeing each other, and a few days after their first date, they head to a karaoke bar called Walt’s, and a strange man stares at Lynn, sending horrid feelings through her, and Jack takes her home.

Meanwhile, BENNE, an internet based serial killer, has killed several other women who write fan fiction. Now he’s after Hush, because better. (huh?) She’s a web mistress who’s captured in her writing who he really is. Her fame in fan fiction circles and her innate trust makes her his soul mate – the one who can save Benne’s soul.

ok, right here you lose me. Her innate trust? She doesn’t know him!

Lynn doesn’t realize that Benne is the man in the bar who scared her. Benne becomes enraged at Lynn for being there with Jack. He starts trying to determine the fastest ways to implement his plans for Lynn/Hush.

To Lynn, Benne is an author named RUGBY, and he gets a job transfer (to) Wichita. Lynn is excited to meet him, and gets to even sooner than she thinks, when she gets fired from her job for writing fan fiction at work, thanks to Lynn’s office nemesis, TINA SMITH.

Lynn, being left without a ride from work, calls Rugby to pick her up and take her to her vehicle on the opposite side of town. Afterwords (afterwards), they have a cup of coffee at Starbuck’s, (Starbucks) where Rugby slips something in her drink, and takes her back to his lair.

Wait...she’s never met this guy but she asks him for a ride to her car on the opposite side of town? Why doesn’t she drive to work? Why does she call someone she doesn’t know?

Lynn awakes to find herself cuffed at her ankles and her wrists to a bed. Benne injects drugs, forces her to drink chemicals to cleanse her system, and bathing rituals, all carried out by Rugby, who whistles Snow White’s “Whistle While You Work” as he purifies her body.

this is creepy as hell.

In between one of the sessions with Hush, Benne hears a noise in his home, and he investigates, only to find two FBI agents breaking into the house. The first he shoots and that agent goes down. The second agent attacks him, and as he struggles, he realizes that the agent is the man that Hush had been with in the bar the night before. Benne incapacitates him and stuffs him in the extra deep sump pump hole in the basement.

First, the FBI doesn’t break into homes. They get warrants. Second WHY would they break in? As far as any observer can tell, a man and a woman go into a house after a Starbucks date. Not exactly suspicious stuff.

Lynn awakes to find herself in a scalding shower and being scrubbed down with Comet, but she hears something in the distance, a voice, albeit a muffled one, but something that clues her into the fact that she’s not alone. The smell of latex and Comet send Lynn over the edge, and she starts vomiting on Rugby, then passes out.

Rugby deposits her on her bed, and runs from the basement to clean himself. When he reaches the upstairs, he realizes that the other FBI agent is still alive, a blood trail leads him to her dying body in his living room. Enraged because of the vomit as well as the prospect of this agent trying to get away, he finishes the job and starts working on scrubbing away all evidence of the blood and vomit.

Meanwhile, Lynn awakes realizing she’s not chained to the bed, but her body is so weakened that she can barely move. She crawls to the bathroom and forces some water in her system, then crawls to the room where the noisy groans she heard before emanated. Inside, she finds a person shoved down in the sump pump hole, and when she pulls the duct tape off his face, she realizes it’s Jack Edwards!

Confusion reigns for Lynn, and she and Jack argue about why he’s there, and the fact that she’s only an assignment to him. She realizes that Jack is WillowRocks, and her heart crumbles into a thousand pieces at the knowledge that Jack was only with her to find Benne.

Yep, that’s EXACTTLY what I’d do when in the hands of a serial scrubber--I’d argue with a guy about why he doesn’t love me.

They manage to get out of the basement, and a shoot out begins between Rugby and Jack. (where does Jack get the gun?) Lynn, overwhelmed by anger, frustration, and hatred, grabs Jack’s discarded flack jacket and a gun found on the floor and marches up to Rugby, aiming for his head. She misses, hitting the couch he cowered behind, and takes a bullet in the chest.

Yup, in a gun battle, that’s exactly what I’d do too: march right over to an armed man and miss him.

When Lynn comes to, she’s strapped to a gurney and the place is swarming with police, FBI, and medical people. Jack yells at her for her stupidity, and she just smirks at him, glad to be alive, and that she’s still able to think.

Rushed to Wesley hospital, Lynn receives treatment for her body’s chemical burns. Jack visits her once, to tell her he’s going back to Washington DC. Lynn’s heart is broken into a thousand more pieces. She’s taken to her parents’ home to recuperate, and spends time with her family, and reading all the cards and letters she’s received from people all over the country, including letters from Benne’s other victims.

Three months pass, and Lynn refuses to read any email from Jack, or even check her email. Then, after a conversation with her mother, Lynn logs onto the internet for the first time since she was kidnapped, and sees WillowRocks is online. Jack pops up an IM screen, and they argue. A web cam option is available. Lynn clicks on the image, it opens up with Jack sitting in front of the computer, engagement ring in hand, and a sign that reads “will you marry me?”


Lynn says yes.


Their wedding is available for view at slayerdomain.com.


Well, you’ve got a synopsis here. No doubt about that. And it’s a good synopsis. The problem of course is that it makes me NOT want to read the book. This is a bad thing.

Even in fiction, action has to make sense. Motivation has to be believable. 0-2 on that here.

#92 Crapometer

Genre: Fiction

Johnny Says

At the age of three, Sophia Applegate has her first experience with the University. She hides her mother's shoes, her brother's shoes, she hides all the shoes in the house including her own.


When Sophie is five, her mother buys a shiny, golden padlock down at the hardware store in Come-By-Chance, Newfoundland. Sophie knows that her mother has one in her room and it's locked onto a box where all her mother's important papers and jewellery are kept. Sophie is an important, safe person the night her mother nails the new padlock outside her bedroom door.

Sophie wakes the morning after a University night. She watches outside her window; the birds feeding their babies, the seeds she has planted in the garden sprouting their little leaves toward the sun and the mud sewers she made. The tiny walls become saturated, and the tiny tadpoles swim out of the walls.


Sophie realizes she has a problem and looks around her room for a carton. In her closet she finds a box of old clothes, empties it onto the floor and heads to her bookshelf. Sophie doesn't like books, her mother gives the University money and it gives her books. With her wee fingers, Sophie shreds the words and puts them into the cardboard box, in the same way she does every week for the family cats. Sophie, straddles the box and urinates. And to Sophie, it feels good because maybe her mother won't be mad at her for not wetting the bed or for making any messes on the floor.

Sophie hears her father and her brother's voices outside her door. She knows by the way they talk that they don't think much of the University, either. That morning she learns her father and her brother pick cotton for a living, because her mother tells them to keep, ‘their cotton-pickin' hands off of Sophie.'

When Sophie is fourteen, she spends many days in the swamp and one day she meets Johnny. She looks deeply into his eyes and sees they're like milk chocolate with flecks of black licorice and green peppermint; gifts from her father. Sophie thinks they're the sweetest eyes she's ever seen. And for Sophie, it's not often she looks up. She mostly notices the distortion of the world as it lays (lies) flat beneath her feet and cannot trust the air around her alive with jitters and chattering and who knows what else lurks in those forces she cannot see. The world of illiteracy.

It's Johnny who teaches Sophie to look up.

Johnny says that Sophie can't ever have freedom. When Sophie questions why, Johnny seduces her and tells her he's laid his seed inside of her.

While Sophie's womb swells, she participates in a grade nine field trip. Sophie's science teacher takes the class on a exploration to the local swamp and wildlife reservation to catch various species of frogs. For dissection. The leopards, the peepers and the toads.

Johnny, according to Sophie, escorts her, his hair the colour of bark on an oak tree simmering under the gaze of the persimmon-coloured sun, Sophie learns that it's the horizon that always makes Johnny jump. That moment between the sun's last spit into the air and where the moon sighs and takes over the spirit of the natures living around them.

Sophie and Johnny become separated from the school group.

Johnny's in the water. Sophie's jacket gets caught on thorns from a wild rose bush. It isn't long when Johnny's head goes under the swirling murky water. The diamond Johnny has given Sophie digs into his throat while she tries to save him. Bubbles froth up from below. Johnny is a dead weight and Sophie can't move him. He sputters. But that's all. She lifts him to her breast, cradles him until that last dream, that lost thought, that last glimpse of life, leaves him.

When the moon rises above the tree line, Sophie awakens and realizes that her hands, her clothes are full of blood. The diamond has scored herself around her own throat and her blood has congealed on her body. Frogs continue singing around her, and crickets sting their aching reminders of heat to come. Sophie falls into a deep sleep, only to wake to the sound of what she believes-- a corpse streaming putrid gas from open, gaping wounds. At this point, Sophie doesn't care if anyone finds her. She is just glad to be away from home.

When Sophie is found in the swamp, her swollen stomach has erupted and she is embracing the entrails of an inhuman being in her arms along with the excrements of her own bowels. She incoherently babbles about what Johnny says.

There is a ‘John' at her school, and he is Sophie's lab partner. John is questioned by guidance counsellors and then the police, they subsequently confront Sophie's mother. Afraid that her daughter is carrying her husband's child, she protects Sophie and tells the police about the rape of her daughter by a young man in school called, ‘Johnnie.'

John, a minister's son is appalled and denounces (denies) knowing Sophie. Although, he cannot help his curiosity and follows her to the swamp where Sophie talks to nature. (sentence fragment) It is here that John learns that there is no such person as Johnny. He is a figment of Sophie's imagination. All the wisdom leaving Sophie's mouth, via the way ‘Johnny Says', is indeed Sophie. The side of Sophie that cannot speak, that is, the uneducated.

John befriends Sophie and teaches her how to read by leaving cue cards written by him in various areas in the swamp where he knows Sophie seeks refuge. She begins to understand the meaning of "leopard frogs" and "peepers" and "tadpoles", through the written word. Eventually, these metaphors give Sophie voice and she begins to read. Albeit, she croaks at first, but she does succeed, and realizes what ‘Johnny Says'.

Qeustion: How many surrealists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Answer: Lobster

Question: Does the fact that this synopsis remind me of that joke bode well?
Answer: no

You’ve fallen into the enticing trap of trying to make your synopsis sound like your novel. Don’t. Let your novel speak for itself. Let us get a sense of what happens and who the characters are here - not by channelling them, but by describing them. If I’d gotten this in the query pile I’d have stopped reading after the first “huh?”.If you’re doing something original with the narrative voice, just tell us.

#91 Crapometer

Genre: Mystery

Deadly Arrows-Synopsis

Small town newspapering sounded like a great idea to Fay Cunningham until the day a killer tried to nail her hide to a tree with a razor sharp arrow. Now she must convince a young whippersnapper police officer, Mitch Malone and his redneck family that the arrow didn't come from a hunter who mistook her for a deer. Just because the woman who was charged with firing another deadly arrow into Mitch's niece hung herself in her jail cell, didn't mean
the tight-knit Pennsylvania community is now free of a cunning murderer. And Fay must prove it with lightning speed before the next arrow lands her six feet under.

this is flap copy, not a synopsis.

I've bitten people in the keister saying their work is awash in names and events, but this takes succinct to an extreme. You need more here. Starting with: what happens?

#90 Crapometer

Genre:commercial fiction

Dangerous Bedfellows-Synopsis

Dangerous Bedfellows is the disturbing and rewarding story of Jackie, an incest survivor.

Betrayed by every man she ever trusted, beginning with her father, the beautiful movie producer Jacqueline Bertoni, dubbed The Ice Lady, exacts her revenge on all before the quick thaw when she gives her trust to the one man who will help her become whole again.

This isn't a synopsis. This is a cliche drenched voice over for the Jerry Springer show.

#89 Crapometer

Genre: literary fiction


When one is alone, when friends are dead and relationships with those living are ruined, are memories enough? Can one undo time?

Matty Collins, a Londoner born in America, is an elderly woman-reclusive, bitter, feisty, paranoid and destitute. She is also utterly alone. She hopes to return to New York, where she was raised. When those hopes are dashed, she decides instead to kill herself. She examines her life, notably the period in 1947 when she meets her husband, Henry, an Englishman and war hero. Matty is twenty-five then, trapped, a guardian to her brother Roland since their father's suicide three years prior. She's been hoping for change, and here, in Henry, she finds it. When she sails to Southampton to marry him, she abandons Roland, now fifteen.

The marriage and the resulting abandonment is the defining act of Matty life, a decision based on dreadful assumptions. What led Matty to the decision may lie in the traumas and secrets of her parents' deaths, of Matty own sense of abandonment, of Roland's presence and how his arrival tipped the family's balance.

Matty is the orphan girl in countless fairy tales. Yet there is no happy ending; the prince who rescues her is a philanderer, and his kingdom, Great Britain, is an empire on the wane - limping badly, its homeland bombed out, subject to dire shortages and severe rationing.

From late-twentieth-century London, to post-war Singapore, to Depression-era New York, The Happy World untangles Matty mistakes and traumas to rediscover a life untainted.

When you use a from/to construction, generally you go from the oldest or first event TO the most recent/last. Therefore: From Depressiona era New York (1930) to post war Singapore (1946-assuming we’re talking WW2) to late 20th C. London (1990).

You have flap jacket copy here. This isn’t a synopsis. What happens? How does she change? What happens to Roland? Why will we give a fig what happens to this dame?

#88 Crapometer

Genre: mystery
Cold Death

Ex- homicide detective, Kelsey Ball deals with more than the chilly Berkshire weather in Massachusetts. For a starter, the man who draws her blood every week to test her Cumidin Level is murdered with a syringe plunged into his right eye.

MacCleane Torrance is a technician at the Berkshire Medical Clinic. When Kelsey discovers his body, she shifts into action, and secures the room until the real authority arrives, but no good turn (deed) goes unpunished. Two detectives show up the next day with a scrap of paper that was clutched in the dead man’s hand. It has her name and address on it. Kelsey insists she has no relationship with Mac outside the clinic. After their departure, she checks her mail, and discovers a package from Mac.

Right here we’ve got a problem. Why would Mac send this to her? If he’s truly concerned about the events you describe next, he’d go to the police.

The envelope contains a key on a key chain, and on the chain is a kind of telescope gizmo, with a photo inside of a naked woman. Kelsey also discovers a torn page from the Yellow Pages, and circled in red is an advertisement for Chasen Funeral Home. Not happy with the attitude of the local police, Kelsey decides to check into the murder herself.

cause like writing a letter would be too...obvious?

Kelsey visits Jeffrey Goldsmith, Mac’s lover. She discovers the girl in the photo is Mac’s younger sister, Sheila. She died six months earlier from a heroin overdose, and coincidentally, was buried by Chasen Funeral.

Going back to complete her blood test, a staff person tell Kelsey of a fight between a body builder type and Mac the day before the murder.

The next day, she goes to the Chasen Funeral Home, using the excuse of pre-planning a funeral for herself to meet with the director, Gaston Boudreaux. Leaving the funeral home, she realizes she is being followed, and confronts the stalker, a private dick named Paul T. Wong. He tells her Mac hired him to check out his sister’s death. After a rocky start, they pool their resources to find Mac’s murderer.

If Mac hired Paul Wong WHY is he sending stuff to Kelsey?

Kelsey turns over the envelope to the police. She discovers the detective, Carroll Hatterton, had worked on Sheila’s case. Hatterton tells her the coroner discovered signs of hypothermia during the autopsy, which didn’t fit the facts, but his boss told him to close the case anyway, since she was just another junkie.

At the clinic, Kelsey speaks again to Mac’s co-worker, who tells her how she’d caught Mac’s boss, Perry Starks, taking a DVD jewel case from Mac’s locker.

so, every time she goes to the clinic something new is revealed? You’re creating things to serve your plot needs but the don’t appear to flow naturally.

Kelsey tracks down Mike Baronski, the blonde Adonis who fought with Mac, but he refuses to speak to her. Returning home, she is beaten up by an intruder. She can’t identify her attacker, but her mobile home is torn apart. Then, after a computer search, she discovers both Gaston and Jeffrey lived together in New Orleans, and Gaston was known to be selling drugs and women.

“both Gaston and Jeffrey lived together” means they both lived with other people, who are unnamed. What you mean is “Gaston and Jeffrey lived together” ie with each other.

And how did she discover they “lived together” on the computer? “computer” is a cop out for finding clues if they aren’t explained.

you can’t sell women. You can rent them out but technically no selling. The fact that I notice this means I've stopped being carried along by the synopsis and I'm now watching for mistakes. This is a VERY bad sign.

Attending Mac’s funeral at Chasen Funeral Home, she notices Mac’s boss is missing, the one who took the disk from Mac’s locker. Going to his apartment, she finds Starks dead in his bedroom. His girlfriend arrives, and Kelsey tells her that if she knows about the DVD disk, she should tell the police.

Later, Kelsey hooks up with Wong to talk to the manager who found Sheila’s body at the Myrtle Inn, a sleazy welfare hotel. Known as Ketchup Barker, he tells them about the two men half-carrying her into the lobby. The description points to Jeffrey and Gaston. Kelsey suspects they supplied her with drugs and prostituted her. She wonders why Jeffrey would do such a thing to his lover’s sister.

Hatterton calls to tell her Sparks’ girlfriend, Maria, is missing. They both agree it’s not a good sign. Later, Kelsey confronts Mike Baronski at his home. He admits to the fight with Mac, but says it was a lover’s spat. He wanted Mac to leave Jeffrey, but Mac said he needed to clear up some “bad stuff between him and Jeffrey” first. After Mac’s death, Jeffrey harassed Mike, and he was afraid of him.

Kelsey breaks into Jeffrey’s house, finds the missing DVD disk. On it is a movie with a naked Sheila crawling into a coffin, pretending to be dead. It was a come-on for men who enjoy necrophilia.

The next day, Kelsey breaks into the funeral home. Jeffrey and Gaston are talking to a man named Tommy Hooplewhite. When her presence is discovered, Tommy knocks Kelsey out. When she wakes up, she is in a small room with the Sparks’ girlfriend’s dead body.

Tommy Hooplewhite explains they cater to the necrophilia trade. Out of revenge for Mac’s infidelity, Jeffrey hooks his sister on drugs and introduces her to Hooplewhite. To add authenticity to the act, they immerse the girl into a tub of ice chips. Because of her drug use, a weakened Sheila went into a coma, but Jeffrey insists they had revived her and returned her alive to the Myrtle Inn. However, after her death, Mac kept snooping around, and they needed to kill him, and later, the others.

They have plans for Kelsey, which include immersing her into a tub of ice for a customer coming up from New York. Jeffrey is given instructions to prepare her. She tries to tell them about her heart condition, but they don’t care. She slips into a coma.

She wakes up in the hospital. A worried Paul Wong broke into the funeral home, and saves her from death. Jeffrey, Gaston and Tommy are arrested for the murders of Mac, Starks and his girlfriend.

oh man, this was old when they used it in The Perils of Pauline. First of all, the rescue, the heat of the action (so to speak, considering she’s covered in ice) happens OFF THE PAGE. Nothing is liklier to make me snarl. Second, she’s the heroine and she’s rescued by someone. YUCK.

Kelsey asking for a favor from Wong and Hatterton, goes back to the Myrtle Inn. She believes Sheila was given a hot shot by Ketchup, the day manager. Not to kill her, but to get her so strung out, she’d sleep with him. He confesses to it, and is arrested.

An impressed Wong asks her to work for him as a private investigator, and she agrees. She looks forward to going back to doing investigations.

Why doesn’t she just go back to being a cop? If she retired on disability, i bet she’s not allowed to work or she loses her benefits. You have to keep this stuff real or you lose the reader’s trust.

You’ve focused on events in this but the good news is that it reveals you’ve got some pretty fundamental flaws in your plot. Even if you had the zippiest writing in the world, this won’t fly as it’s laid out.

#87 Crapometer


Synopsis of "No Need for Words"

Orossy is pretty enough to be the girl he pretends to be, and gelded to make sure he stays that way. Disillusioned with his tavern life, he takes a lover for the night: Tommasin, the sadistic overseer of the Asteri farmlands. Tommasin possesses a mind-gift and rifles through Orossy's mind to discover Orossy's traumatic past. He woos the young man into his employ as messenger boy and intimate companion.

When Tommasin starts to get violent one night, Orossy's personality disappears and is replaced with Rossa, a female alter determined to protect Orossy. Rossa knows about Orossy, but not vice versa; all Orossy knows is that he often wakes up with terrible headaches, and no memory of what passed the night before. Tommasin is aware of the difference.

Orossy befriends Lerryn, a mute autistic boy with a talent for sketching plants. They become friends. Orossy knows Lerryn is being abused by his family, and begins to fear for Lerryn's life. Lerryn's father tracks them down, accuses Orossy of rape and beats him.

Lerryn's parents cede his care to the city of Sakkireth. Healer Rewenna, director of the Sakkireth Infirmary, comes to escort Lerryn. On the ride back, she startles Lerryn and he runs away.

Maddren, Lord Governor of the Asteri territory, finds Lerryn outside of his arboretum, senses Lerryn's obsession with his plants, and discovers that Lerryn can use his mind-gift to manipulate their healing properties. He speaks mind-to-mind with Lerryn so the boy can understand. Maddren lets him stay and teaches him to overcome his autism.

Tommasin arrives home with a healer named Rohn to heal Orossy. Orossy reluctantly becomes intimate with him after Rohn says he might be able to restore Orossy's masculinity.

Tommasin sends Orossy to Sakkireth and bring back Lerryn (what??) and puts a compulsion on Orossy's mind so that if Orossy dares to talk about Tommasin or Rohn, he will feel excruciating pain. Rossa is told to seduce Maddren so Tommasin can use her to reach Maddren's mind.

Lerryn rapidly improves. Rewenna takes him as her apprentice to become Master Herbalist, but Lerryn doesn't know how to interact with other children and accidentally harms another student.

Meanwhile, a sick Orossy ends up in the Infirmary under the care of the herb-woman Karraby. They trace his background, and Rewenna is horrified to learn that Orossy had possibly taken advantage of Lerryn in the farmlands.

Orossy wakes, senses Lerryn, and finds him hiding in his stillroom. (he’s a bootlegger?) Rewenna, Maddren and Karraby find them, and Maddren takes both boys home. Karraby, by returning Orossy's dresses and being understanding about his lifestyle, befriends him.

Orossy spends time helping Lerryn improve, and resumes his prostitution. He finds Rohn in a tavern, in town to track Orossy's progress. Later, Rossa nearly succeeds in seducing the Lord Governor while Tommasin searches through his mind. Maddren realizes what is happening, and only Lerryn's pleading keeps Maddren from sending Orossy away.

Lerryn finds Orossy and, curious, offers Orossy money to spend the night with him. Orossy does. Rossa emerges at Orossy's guilt, and realizes it's time for to return to Tommasin.

The next morning, Orossy means to take Lerryn to class by horseback, but is intercepted by Rohn. Lerryn is kidnapped on Orossy's horse and taken away to Tommasin by Rohn's two accomplices. Orossy is knocked unconscious. Rohn takes him back to the tavern, and uses his mind-gift to torture Orossy until Rossa emerges, also helpless. When Rohn is finished, he leans over to whisper a brutal secret: Orossy is Tommasin's bastard son.

Rossa reaches out to Tommasin through their mental link. Tommasin focuses Rossa's mind-gift on Rohn and drives the man mad. Rohn, naked, plunges down the stairs to his death. Orossy is taken to Maddren's. Rewenna tends to him, and after a while they figure out that Lerryn never made it to the Infirmary. Maddren, still unaware of Orossy's split personality, uncovers Tommasin's compulsion after he questions Rossa, who's pretending to be Orossy. He offers Orossy/Rossa the chance to trace it back to its creator and find Lerryn.

Rossa agrees. Maddren traces the compulsion to Tommasin, finds he is a Lycenian spy by the name of Tomak, and uncovers his plans to eradicate the Asteri. Tomak senses him and breaks the compulsion, which nearly kills Orossy.

!!aliens have now officially arrived!!

Karraby meets Rossa, and they go to Lord Maddren, who wants to speak with Orossy. Rossa asks to be able to touch the Lord Governor's mind, in order to find out if he can be trusted with Orossy's safekeeping. Maddren agrees. A traumatized Orossy emerges, and is able to use the bond he has with his horse to track Tomak and Lerryn.

Tomak has kidnapped Lerryn to get the boy to reveal the contents of a vial of poison he means to use to destroy the Asteri. He's used Lerryn's fears against him, and when those failed, forced Lerryn to drink some of the paralytic poison to induce cooperation. Lerryn refuses, and starts to die. Tomak escapes as Maddren approaches.

Rossa reveals her presence to Orossy, and uses her/his mind-gift to help Lerryn survive and takes him back to Sakkireth.

Lerryn begins to heal. Karraby takes care of Rossa and Orossy, and eventually convinces Rossa to merge with Orossy and to go visit Lerryn. Orossy asks if Lerryn still hates him. Lerryn says yes, but that he will forgive him if Orossy makes love to him, because the last time Orossy slept with him, it "was business."

Orossy agrees, but is terrified; he's never understood the real meaning of love. He gives it a valiant effort, but starts having flashbacks to previous encounters before they get very far. Lerryn brings him back, comforting him without words. They're both still afraid, and know Tomak will return one day, but for now they're safe and in love.

You’re awash in events, and names. Time to prune heavily. You have nine named characters and you refer to them sometimes by their title instead of their name. You don’t need every detail of plot, or every character in the book included in the synopsis.

Aliens arrive in the form of bringing in a plot twist about spies that bears no resemblence to anything that’s come before.

You might have a good book here but this doesn’t reveal that; it's a mess.