HH Crapometer Status Report

1. Everyone who is getting numbers, has them. No more re-sends, questions, resubmits. This thing has ballooned past sanity and there has to be a stopping point. That point is now. Don't email me to complain it's unfair. I don't care.

2. No comments that are cruel without being helpful in the comment trail. Leave the snarking to the professionals. Threee of you are already on auto reject for string of comments that are just plain mean spirited. Stop it.

3. We MIGHT get through 50 a day. There are 588 unposted hooks. You can do the math. That means if I asked you for pages you'll have some time to send them.

4. People who are asked for pages get an email asking for pages. Thats the ONLY way you know you're being asked for pages. If you don't get an email asking, don't send them. I keep track. When we get to the pages review I'll email you again if I haven't received yours.

5. yes, we are going to do this differently if we ever do it again. I had no idea we'd get this much. I even laid money on it. Not only am I inundated..I have to pay off my wagers.

6. Please don't email me about anything right now. One person wanted me to search the Snarkives for her. As if. I'm obviously never going to do that, but I'm not even responding to emails right now. They all get tucked in a little folder that says "expiration date soon".

7. Lest you think this is some sort of martyrdom, let me assure you I"m learning quite a lot. I teach classes at writers conferences and it's really helpful to me to have to talk about what's good/bad works/doesn't in these. When I do my slush it's form letters. This helps me out so yea, I'm glad it helps you too but it's not a one way street.

8. The missing numbers are people who withdrew or when I lost count. Well that's the public explanation anyway. It's more like platform 9-3/4. Only the really gifted people can see the entries. What..you can't?? hmmmm


We're at 100. We've got something like 589 to go.

Despite my protestations KY insists on eating dinner and chasing squirrels.

Also it's going to be 60 in NYC tomorrow. We may have to perambulate about the park an extra time or too.

In other words...keep your panties on. We'll get to you. Particularly the lesbian demon love bunnies.

(I hope Grandmother Snark is knee deep in handbags at Bloomingdales and not reading this blog right now.)

HH Com 100

When therapist Megan Chase promises listeners of her new radio call-in show she'll slay their personal demons, they believe her.

Unfortunately, so do the personal demons.

Megan doesn't know she's the only human alive without a personal demon on her shoulder. This, coupled with her psychic abilities, makes her a valuable weapon for any demon "family" lucky enough to gain her allegiance. It also makes her such a serious threat to the personal demons they bring a soul-sucking creature of primordial evil known as The Accuser to help them defeat her. The Accuser has an old score to settle with Megan anyway, and sees this as the perfect time to do it.

But Megan isn't without allies as she's plunged back into a world she forgot existed. A member of a competing demon family sees Megan as his ticket to power, and sets about both protecting and seducing her with devilish intensity.

Can Megan, her new demon lover, a witch with poor social skills, and three cockney guard demons named Malleus, Maleficarum, and Spud defeat not only The Accuser, the personal demons, and the ghosts of Megan's past, but the reporter who threatens to destroy Megan's career as well?

There's a hook.
And dog love us "a witch with poor social skills" is not (very tactfully) named Miss Snark.

Winner of course. Who couldn't want to know more about a demon named Spud?

HH Com 99

When my family arrived in Saigon in January of 1963, Vietnam was a country poised on the edge of disaster. Turmoil, violent demonstrations and political intrigue ruled the day. While my father established the first Armed Forces Radio Station in Southeast Asia (as featured in "Good Morning, Vietnam!"), I set about finding friends within the American community. The
sons and daughters of soldiers and diplomats became my new pals, bound together by our mutual experience. As teenagers thrust into the delirium of pre-war Saigon, we adapted in the only way we knew how––we embraced it as if it were the only home we would ever know. Late at night we haunted the streets and discovered that in Saigon, dreams and nightmares can exist side by side, separated only by the thin veil of civilization.
We were witnesses to a chaotic world of Viet Cong terror bombings, Buddhists burning themselves in protest and a coup d'etat that toppled the government in a blaze of violence. Through it all we maintained the teenage rituals of school, parties and dating. We also indulged in the sleazy side of Saigon––prostitution, booze and cigarettes, the black market, a run-in with a pedophile; Saigon was a dangerous place for a thirteen-year-old boy.
Hell, in those days Saigon was a dangerous place for anyone.
Once Upon A Time in Saigon recounts one military brat's journey from childhood to adolescence and the realization that home is where you find it.

Your challenge here is that you are dealing with something anyone alive in the 50's and forward has seen/heard one gazillion times. You're going to have to come up with things we haven't seen for this to be compelling. You haven't done that here.

Memoir is very very tricky because what is literally life altering for you the subject may not be very interesting on the page. That's pretty tough to say to people which is why the person universally loathed by agents at writinig conferences by agents is the nice sweet lady who wants to write about fire saftey cause her eleven multiply-handicapped adopted tri-racial, born again children perished in a fire.

HH Com 98

It’s 1966, and Harry Levine owns a wholesale shoe warehouse in one of Detroit’s declining neighborhoods, where most of the business owners are Jewish and the residents are black. Uncomfortable with his relative privilege in this ghettoized neighborhood, Harry tries to equalize matters by being a “good person,” especially to the black tenants who live upstairs from his warehouse. When Harry arrives at work on Halloween morning and finds his front window defaced by an ethnic slur, he is drawn more deeply into the thicket of tensions that surround him at his business, in the neighborhood where he and his family live, and in his struggling city. As Harry and his wife resist the fears that have driven much of the white population from the city, the outcome for them is a complex juxtaposition of losses and gains.

My literary novel, [title], explores the class, race, and ethnic frictions at work in the year encompassing the Detroit riots of 1967. In a broader sense, the novel is about the rise and collapse of a great American city—the once-mighty automobile capital of the world and arsenal of democracy.

The novel is based on a story for which I won first place in the 2005 Moment short fiction competition judged by Judy Budnitz.

Here's the write up in the New Yorker about Made in Detroit by Paul Clemens:

Detroit's population has halved since the nineteen-fifties, the result both of decline in the auto industry and, starting in the late sixties, of white flight in the wake of race riots. Born in Detroit in the seventies, Clemens grew up in a white enclave, and his memoir lovingly depicts his soft-spoken, gearhead father, who could shift from first to fifth without ever engaging the clutch, and his stalwart mother, who cleaned houses to pay for a private education that would keep her son out of inner-city schools. Embedded in his well-wrought, if conventional, coming-of-age story is an honest and bracing account not only of mutual mistrust across the color divide but also of the peculiar Rust Belt pride that kept whites and blacks locked together, even as the city collapsed around them.

See the difference?

The New Yorker article has a compelling immediacy to it. You're removed and distant in yours. You're telling me, not showing me with artful language like "gear head father" and "peculiar rust belt pride" what you want me to care about.

Read this book. It's probably the best memoir I've read since Mary Karr and Gay Talese.

HH com 97

The New York Times

Kidnapping suspected in disappearance of five NY teens

Two family employees also missing
Police asking for leads

Five prominent New York teenagers have vanished without a trace, along with a chauffeur and a security guard employed by two of their families. In a bizarre set of circumstances that have police scrambling to discover what happened to them, they all disappeared from various locations in midtown Manhattan between two am and noon on Saturday.

First to disappear was Gregory Allan Mainwaring, fourteen, son of Allan Lamar Mainwaring, conductor of the Four Seasons Festivals in Lincoln Center, and Helena Stromboli Mainwaring, director of The Stromboli Foundation, benefactor to hospitals, universities, and arts organizations around the world.

Young Mainwaring was last seen in a bedroom of his parent's Park Avenue apartment at two am Saturday morning. A promising pianist, Mainwaring made his professional debut
at the age of eight, playing Beethoven's Emperor’s Concerto at the Seventh Fall Festival conducted by his father.

Also missing is Broadway's brightest young star, Becca Lee, fourteen. Lee exploded onto the New York stage singing the title role in Annie. Last year, she received a Tony nomination for her first dramatic role, playing Beverly Jane in Richmond Wilder's Pulitzer Prize winning play, Mississippi Mud Pies.

This is a hook?
It's not even a first page.
You want me to be enticed by the idea of teenagers disappearing in the 212??? Are you insane??? I'd PAY to have 200 of them vacummed up off my streetcorner at 3:30 pm Monday through Friday. (oh wait! -lighbulb- Miss Snark is the kidnapper/villain??)

This doesn't work on any level for me.

HH Com 96

What would happen if your existence was never destined to be? If, as a teenager, you discover your birth was never part of the master plan?

For Chance Cooper, being a modern-day 13-year-old is tough enough: dodging a beating by the school bully and always being the ‘new kid’ because his family moves annually. Finding out he’s a divined descendant of Zeus and that his very being was secretly orchestrated by a Greek god for an unknown – possibly sinister – purpose makes teen angst doubly unbearable.

(your hook starts here)
In THE FATED BOY, Chance’s life takes a turn for the weird in the eighth grade. His father has taken the top post at Chance’s newest school, the Olympia Secondary Academy & College of Hades, an institution that teaches the divined. There, Chance’s destiny begins to play out when he befriends the Leto twins, the first divined offspring in their family in centuries, and child prodigy Waldo Egan, who, unintentionally, leaves smoke and flames in his wake. As the year unfolds, Chance questions his divinity and must endure his classmates’ taunts when they discover he’s the first-ever ‘fated boy’ in the history of time. But their whispered rumors are nothing compared to the unintelligible calling reverberating in Chance’s head; a calling he alone hears. It drives him to embark on a reckless journey that leads to heartache – and opens up questions about Chance’s true identity.

Every 8th grader in the world wants to be a god AND find he has different parents. It's the equivilent fantasy of working as a bartender in a strip club for 16 year old boys.

You've got nothing here thats going to raise this past "usual".

In fact, the crux of the book..the journy...is glossed over like it doesn't matter.

Refocus. Revise.

HH Com 95

By the second day, a burn victim's flesh feels like it's peeling off the bone. Their skin, blistered and charred black, resembles a slab of Canadian bacon gone putrid with time. Any clothes have long been welded into the body, and whatever fabric the surgeons failed to deabride dot every inch not covered by bandages. For the preeminent few, a news report will follow the weather forecast that morning. The hospital spokesperson, talking dutifully behind a podium lined with different network microphones, reads two prepared statements: the family's gratitude for all the public support given to them during such a tragic time; and the hospital's comments regarding the patient's condition (critical), and what percentage of their body is incinerated beyond recognition.

For Adrian Cohen, that second day is the worst of his life. As a catheter inserted in what used to be a penis pumps crimson urine from his body, he overhears the attending making small-talk with the orderlies ("Guess they don't teach stop, drop, and roll in Yale drama school, huh?"), and in that moment realizes that his once promising career is now over.

A world famous screen actor, disfigured at the hands of the Russian Mafia for failing to pay his protection, Adrian must now learn to live his life with his greatest asset gone.

(Miss Snark to Killer Yapp: Quick, call the pizza delivery place and cancel that order for canadian bacon and pineapple. Substitute veggies. Oh wait. Cancel it all, I think I need to not eat ever again.)

This is riveting in a horrifying way.
I like my hair being set on fire metaphorically only!

Your hook revolts us then switches gears to ask us to care about someone we don't know. A few additional well chosen words will help. Like why he's paying protection money to the Russian Mafia for starters.

HHCom 94

Which is worse: losing faith, or losing heart? When you're fifteen, it's hard enough navigating freshman year of high school. But when God pulls the cosmic rug out from under you, what's left to believe in?

When her beloved grandmother dies, Emmy Vincent abandons her faith in God and punctuates that decision by hiding her grandmother's rosary so it can't be buried with her.

Soon afterward, a stranger starts turning up in unlikely places. The stranger reveals secrets only Emmy knows, including the fate of the rosary. She tells Emmy stories about her grandmother that Emmy has never heard before. Despite her hesitation, Emmy finds herself drawn to the stranger and comforted by her. Then one day the stranger declares that she's an emissary from heaven, sent to mend fences between Emmy and God.

Can Emmy believe this claim? It would explain the stranger's intimate knowledge of Emmy's life. Or maybe Emmy's just plain going crazy --which would seriously put a damper on asking out the cute sophomore in the back row of history class.

Emmy confides everything to her best friend who, despite good intentions, promptly spills the beans. Suddenly Emmy is at the center of a small whirlwind of psychiatrists, clergy, and the high school gossip mill. And no matter what the truth is, Emmy must come to terms
with a disturbing revelation about her grandmother's past: the legacy of the hidden rosary, which Emmy must now face.

Your hook starts with Emmy meeting the stranger; Grandma kicking the bucket can be a single phrase. The action of course is the friend spilling the beans and that's where it gets interesting and it sounds fun.


HH Com 93

After eight years of dating, Jimmy Groves proposes marriage. He’s rocked when the woman not only refuses, but admits to being in love with someone else. She's strung him along because he’s good in bed. Shamed, dejected and angry, Jimmy vows to break his own share of hearts, experience some of that fabled meaningless sex.

He lucks into a bartender job at Balloon Smugglers, a high class strip joint, where he’s surrounded by beautiful women surely hot for some whoopee. Jimmy finds their interest in his average looks and empty wallet to be lacking. (diagram that sentence; I dare you)

Each night Jimmy observes wealthy married men leaving Balloon Smugglers with a stripper. Curious, he follows and finds they’re going to a motel for sex. How dare they disgrace the sanctity of marriage, something Jimmy had wanted so much. He decides to reap some benefit from these clandestine trysts and begins to blackmail the philanderers. Money rolls in, along with a new fascination from the dancers.

Jimmy’s last attempt at ransom involves a young Italian named Vinny ‘Lovegun’ LaRosa. Recently married to the daughter of the Don of the Dominico family, Vinny will stop at nothing to ensure his mafia dreams come true.

You wrote this cause you wanted to do research right?

I'm utterly over books about strippers.

Mafia dreams?

The commenters will help you see some of the more obvious problems- like a guy who wants to fuck around but is holier than thou about the sanctity of marriage.

There's a LOT wrong here. Try to get over the nausea of your work getting shredded and pay attention to what they say. Some of it will be good.

And more writing, less research, ok?

HH Com 92

I, Steven Morgan Carter, being able to read and write, would like to give my stuff away if I die. After what happened this morning, I had to be sure the right things would be done, just in case.

My little brother, Justin, can have any of my toys he wants. Mom can have my clothes and pictures. Dad can have my video games. Andy, my best friend and the only one who understands Doorstep, can have him. And the red wagon we pull him around in. Pieter can have his checker board back, even though he’s been dead for five hundred years. I’ll tell you how to find him in a minute.

Ok. Remember what I said about form?
Well, sometimes form isn't all.
This works.
This works really well.


HH Com 91

Happy Birthday, Mr. President

The American Union is in full decline as it moves from a crocap service economy to a more profitable madcap system. Stalwart ad agency and propaganda mill MurQor Engineering maintains high standards of cronyism under outgoing president Ron Bipotus.

Despite his impeccable upbringing, Ron’s son Barry is a self-doubting anomic. His many siblings, from multiple marriages, are successful, career-hopping rainmakers of madcap entrepreneurial bilking. Barry’s attitude relegates him to the presidency of MurQor—the onerous long-term appointment is gifted him on his twenty-fifth birthday.

Barry disappoints his father on day one by entering the building through the nearest service door instead of the executive foyer. There he meets beautiful Elena Mendez, a brilliant, fast-tracked young professional who helps design strategic marketing campaigns for such key products as wars and psychiatric drugs.

Spiritual and kindhearted, Elena outclasses her clamoring proletarian peers. Barry immediately decides he will sleep with her. His outlook on life improves epiphanously; his initial job performance is outstanding.

Elena’s terminal cancer, a commonplace of the poisoned biosphere, provides good reason for refusing his advances. Barry casually transfers millions of ameros and a commensurate social status to her RFID chip. Although he claims to have arranged for her rapid and painless cure, Elena discovers that he has afforded her only a remission.

While his frat-brat lecherousness tilts toward true love, Elena manipulates Barry’s conscience and other character flaws to her own ends. Soon he has made MurQor into a madcap shop with disastrous consequences for the AU.

Yet another one for my pal Satan.
Very funny.

HH Com 90

The day the ferret fell from the sky, crashing into a field just outside of Chugwater village is one he'd been looking forward to for a long time. The impact leaves him feeling quite dazed - and stark naked, but still he smiles. He is whole again, and this is his first small step toward fixing the big mistake he'd made so long ago, a mistake so dreadful that his mind had split in two, going off to live two separate lives.

Powerful creatures such as the ferret don't go unnoticed, however. The leader of the Urknods, Umperor Rodgarr, has sent his War General to capture him. He plans on using the animal in his own devious schemes, but three children find the ferret moments before the General shows up and inadvertently save the day by running off with the ferret in a conveniently located space-ship. The unexpected, yet dull journey through space soon becomes a nutty dash across the galaxy to save their village when it's dumped on a comet that's heading for a black
hole. The ferret seems hell-bent on sabotaging their mission, and slowly it becomes clear to the children that he is no ordinary animal. He's the legendary Time Ferret, with his own agenda and his own deadline to meet - bringing an entire planet back to life is never easy,
especially when you've got thousands of light-years to travel, half the galaxy chasing after you, and just a few hours left to live.

very funny.
There's a special place in hell reserved for people who tease Miss Snark during a crapometer.

HH Com 89 (88 is skipped)

Grace and five other middle school students sneak off on bikes to save a dead bully’s soul after gossip brands one of them as a delinquent pervert; wrong turns force the kids to change how they view themselves and one another, while their parents drink, cast blame and come to blows.

Grace knows her brother Henry isn’t perfect, but he isn’t a pervert either, no matter what an out of control mom swears he did to her daughter. When the police show up and rumors run amuck, Henry and Grace descend into middle school hell. She latches onto a way to end their fall from grace: everything was fine until a car accident killed the neighborhood bully;
it’ll be fine again as soon as she gets the bully into heaven. If only it were that easy.


I'm sorry but I honest to dog do not want to see "middle school" and "pervert" in the same sentence EVER. I know kids fling that word back and forth at each other without context but you've got context here.

And "sneak off on bikes" has zero relationship to "getting the bully into heaven" unless they plan to revive the closing scene in ET.

Focus. You're all over the map here.

HH Com 87

When Taere Flarion accepts his latest job to “re-acquire” a stolen prototype from the great Tower in the capital city of the Cloaklands, he expects his carefully planned heist to go cleanly and smoothly and without many complications. In a series of instances of terribly bad luck, however, his plan is dashed against the rocks in its last moments by a collapsing staircase, an escaped political prisoner named Alexia with no knowledge of her crimes, and a thief named Mur who has been commissioned by one of Taere’s former employers. After botching his job, Taere joins up with the two fugitives by necessity, and finds himself unwillingly plunged back into the type of life he left behind two years ago, as he becomes the quarry of a relentless band of trackers led by a ruthless man named Tariq. Taere quickly becomes both the pursued and the pursuer, as during their escape, he Alexia and Mur discover a town mysteriously razed by some unknown force. In his first of many attempts to regain control of his situation, Taere makes the decision to find out how he, Alexia and Mur are connected, and why everything, including the razed town, seems to relate back to Taere’s previous life. A world filled with political intrigue, fantastical beasts and machines, and conflicting unknown and sinister forces threatens to tear Taere apart in more ways than one in CHIMERA.

Plot run down of course, and bloated writing "a thief named Mur" "political prisoner named Alexia"--Alexia, a political prisoner; Mur, a thief.

this kind of over writing is death. I see three examples on a first page and I stop reading right there.

Every single word matters.

HH Com 86

Regina Peyton has a background in publishing and a secret flair for entertaining people with erotic short stories, but she also has a mortgage, an unemployed husband who is a dud in bed, and a new job as vice president of marketing for the PRO Chemical Company. Even her expensive Willy Wonka hair cut can't save her from the abuse she faces as the lone female executive in a male arena, which climaxes during a business meeting at a bar when her intoxicated boss grabs her face with his palms, pulls her against his body so she can actually feel the massive erection between his legs and forces her to explain why she’s the right person for the marketing job, while five male co-workers crease their brows and stare at the ceiling.

Though she would love to quit and disappear into the world of her published erotica, it won't pay the bills. So while she plots revenge against her slimy boss, she conceives the idea of starting a small editorial service and takes on a private client who claims to be psychic and only writes what the “spirits” guide her to write. It doesn't take long to deduce the loony client has no talent and she’s about as psychic as Regina’s pet poodle. But the weird gig helps Regina to realize how much she actually likes her new marketing job, and gives her the assurance she needs to set her erection-proud boss up for a huge, well-deserved fall.

I'd be laughing harder but I have 605 of these to go.

HH Com 85

It’s all about understanding one another. Or rather, the egregious lack thereof. In a not-too-distant future, a very small percentage of people are born with the ability to hear all the thoughts and memories of the people around them—in fact, they are unable shut out the unwanted thoughts of others. Feared by the majority, these Psi-kicks are pressed into government service and segregated so they might be contained, but the Norms who proscribe these rules unwittingly create something else: where everyone can hear the thoughts and feelings of the people around them, there is no room for malice, no need of hate, and even apathy is abandoned. In this novel, PETER ELLIOT is one such Psi-kick. When his special skills as a detective are called in to investigate a string of kidnappings we’re given the chance to see his world and acquaintances filtered through his sardonic perceptions. As he digs through the case, he’s lead toward a unbelievable conclusion: that one of his own, a Ps
i-kick, has decided that most of humanity is too sick to be allowed to run the world, and has devised a way to perpetuate his utopia: the genocide of all Norms.

You don't need to build a world in your hook. Start with Peter Elliot. What's his problem? Who's making his life a living hell? What does he have to do to solve the problem.

And if he's a Psiborg...why is he out in the world? I thought they were segregated.

HH Com 84

Time flies, even when you're not having fun. At 32, Sarah Andrews feels as if she's squandering her life on a stalled career and superficial relationships. When she's forced to return to her old home town for her father's funeral, she's not sure whether the trip will be the most difficult experience of her life or just a hugely disruptive sadness. In fact, she can't decide which is worse: losing her father, whom she never felt she knew or pleased, or having to be around her mother, who always seemed more interested in her husband than in her daughter.

Maybe you can't go home again, but sometimes you still have to visit. (that's your best line) Stuck where she doesn't want to be, Sarah decides to embrace encounters with old friends, try to understand her ambivalence toward her father, and make peace with her mother. Along the way, she runs headlong into the last person she expects (or wants) to see: Dennis Petersen, the ex-boyfriend she dumped nine years earlier when she caught him having sex with her best friend.

Will her trip turn out to be about grief and the past, or will it help Sarah redefine the present and make more of her future? An Unexamined Life follows Sarah's attempts to find context, not just closure, and to understand herself as well as the friends, loved ones, and lovers who are woven into her life.

This is a run down of the plot. Frankly I want to kick Sarah in the keister and tell her to get some damn gumption. Introspective navel gazing is, as you might imagine, about the last thing on my list of things to read about. (Naval gazing on the other hand is rather fun during Fleet Week)

You're going to need some kind of levening agent here to get this out of the morass of mud blood and melancholy. That one best line hints at some humor. If you've got it, this could sure use a dose of it.

HH Com 83

Scott is an unassuming guy muddling through his dull life. He is oblivious to the demon threat until he is forcibly transported to a demon dimension. Baffled and disoriented, he manages to fight his way back to the human realm where he is met by a group of people tracking the demons. As the only human to defeat a demon in its realm, the trackers are eager to learn how Scott survived.

They also need his help acquiring an ancient artifact called the Cuspis Belial. A mysterious demon is willing to trade for it. He divulges that two competing demon lords are trying to advance in the demon hierarchy. Their strength is drawn from the souls they control, and the quickest way to augment their power is to abduct humans.

With the help of Daniel, an outcast angel with an affinity for the human hippie subculture, Scott learns the Cuspis Belial can transport humans to the demon realms. Daniel understands the demons. Scott can fight them. And armed with the artifact, they have the means to take the battle to the enemy.

Scott must find the demons behind the attacks. Once he does, he’ll have to confront them to stop the raiding parties. And he’s got to do it quick, because the demon offensive is escalating.

This is as low energy as they come given you want to imply action and peril but you've got the form right. Now just polish this up so it has some zip.

Right now it's a snore. You don't need exclamation marks. You need punchier verbs.

HH Com 82

Why would anyone use a tennis racquet as a murder weapon? When a producer of how-to videos tries to answer that question, she ends up playing a deadly game.

(hook starts here)
Hallie’s up to her visor in cutthroat competition on the tennis club team. After a teammate is murdered with a racquet, the police accuse Hallie’s cousin of delivering the final stroke in a grudge match. Hallie suspects her cousin’s husband of framing his wife, but when he comes up with an alibi as tight as a tennis pro’s tush, she searches for someone else to cast as the murderer. Meanwhile, she battles anxiety over driving, legacy of the crash that widowed her a year ago.

Her sleuthing roils the waters in her Chesapeake Bay town. She clashes with an old flame, a new flame, and a hunky tennis pro, each with a hidden agenda. Targeted when she’s most vulnerable, behind the wheel, she avoids a potentially fatal accident in a sabotaged car. Another attempt on her life convinces her that someone close to her has a secret script—“How to Get Away with Murder.” Unless she rewrites the ending, she’ll be the next victim. Alone with a murderer who has switched from racquets to guns, Hallie has only one weapon, the one that killed her husband. But does she have the courage to use it?

The audience for The Murder Racquet, first in a proposed series, includes traditional mystery fans and tennis players. Thanks for considering this query.

These kinds of cozy mysteries only work well when they are funny. Not Carl Hiassen funny but Jill Churchill or Elaine Viets funny.

You've got the form for the hook down but the novel itself is something I see five days a week.
You need a talking poodle or something.

HH Com 81

Sweat poured down Lissa’s back. Miserably, she leaned over and retched into the sage bushes. Her eyes blurred as she straightened up and staggered to her mother’s car.
Open the door. Start the motor. Drive . . . home.
The road tilted, curved. The car jerked, bumped, stopped.
Blood trickled into Lissa’s eye.
A face peered in the window.
"Please," Lissa asked. "Will you get my daddy?"
The door opened. Fingers wound through Lissa’s hair. "No!" she screamed as they pulled her from the car.
"Please, don't!" Lissa begged as hands grabbed her hells and dragged her onto the bridge. Arms lifted her over the railing, let her go.
The ground was hard. The black sky exploded with shards of shooting stars. Lissa shudderd.
"God, help me . . . ."
The air was cold.
Footsteps ran away in the dark.

Sylvia turned off the alarm. 6 AM. Why did she do this to herself? It was Saturday morning. She could have slept until noon. Red padded to the bed and pressed his wet nose against her cheek. The setter was ready for his run.
Yawning, Sylvia pushed the covers back. She stood and pulled on her gray shorts and a red Nowellton Raiders practice jersey. She tied on her running shoes, slapped her Astros baseball cap on her graying hair, and tip-toed into the hall past her sleeping father‘s room. She'd moved back home last year after her second depressing divorce.

this isn't a hook, it's a first page.

I'm also not sure what "grabbed her hells" means but it sounds dirty. Probably a lesbian thing given what we've seen here today.

You've seen examples of hooks that worked. Revise.

HH Com 80

The once dazzling and undauntable Izzy Bauman, at 45, is a shadow of her former self, and nearly twice the size. Holed up in her suburban New York McMansion, Izzy, with the aid of Peapod, Amazon.com, and caller ID, has successfully managed to evade just about everyone from her highflying days with the exception of Howard (her long-suffering husband stuck with the carpooling and ferreting (interesing word choice) local goods between deliveries), and Samantha, her tragically untormented teenage daughter.

With her media-whoring shrink too busy ruminating on the pathologies of Fox TV’s latest celebrated wife killer to offer aid beyond another hastily dashed-off script, and the mesmeric Rabbi Schlomo Fekstein (enlisted by Izzy’s mother to “get some god into that house, for god’s sake”) spending their sessions exorcizing his own demons, Izzy’s salvation appears improbable.

That is, until Jesus Hernandez, the Nicaraguan stone mason she hired to wall in her property, corners her one afternoon behind the potting shed and confesses his love for her in shattered English. Amused by the fabulous absurdity of the idea, Izzy is also charmed by Jesus’ earnestness, and when he offers to take her on daily morning walks for exercise, she accepts. In the stillness of dawn on their long excursions down rolling country lanes, Izzy even begins to imagine that this wild-eyed evangelizing foreigner might help her find her way back to a world where there are still things worth dying –and living– for.

Well that's a hook.

It's also rife with cliche characters but that's a whole different crapometer.

HH Com 79

"You lived in New Orleans?" he asked me, lobbing the question like a knuckleball.
"Years ago."
"Still know anyone?" He templed his fingers on the desk.
I touched my lips, something I'd picked up from Jill. It's never good to acquire tics, but Tim seemed too anxious to pick up on anything.
“I don’t think so. Not after the storm.”
“But you might?”
“People come and go in New Orleans,” I said. “But even with the heat, it's a town that gets in your veins.” I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. “Not much changes. I guess some of them are still there."
"What kind of people?" he asked.
It was an odd question and it stopped me. "The same kind of people I know here," I said finally.
He shifted uneasily in his chair. "So you'd know people you could do business with?"

Their business is drugs. Seven years after fleeing a drug charge in New Orleans, Ben Butler is asked to return for Mardi Gras. The stakes: fifty thousand dollars, money Ben needs badly. He returns with his girlfriend, Jill, to an unknown New Orleans, changed by the hurricane and healed enough to hurt. They’re helped by Claire, a Tulane law student and pill pusher. As they try to set up a deal, Ben loses Jill to Claire—and himself to the city. Before the end, they’ll fight, fuck, and kill—and learn more about New Orleans than they ever wanted to know.

Well I already think I've read more than I ever want to know. What is it with y'all and lesbian love bunnies today? The idea that the major plot point you mention is boy loses girl to girl is just lame.

You want to focus on what I think might be your actual plot: who asked him to go back and why.

New Orleans can certainly be a character in the story but you'd do well to tell me why I want to read about these people.

HH Com 78

Fourteen-year-old Jack Carr is The Handcuff Kid, juvenile delinquent extraordinaire, a foster kid whose one constant in life is his love and admiration Harry Houdini.

After moving in with his new foster father, a mad professor who dabbles in the world of the occult, Jack discovers he has been sold into servitude in the land of the dead.

Jack is thrust into a macabre world where the dead are in limbo and live in the Purgatory Forest. Under the evil eye of the Amazing Mussini, Jack becomes a member of a traveling vaudeville act and with a motley gang of lost kids travels around the towns of Purgatory entertaining the dead.

Having no thespian-like skills, Jack’s only act is to perform the tricks of Houdini, namely the handcuff and straightjacket escapes. Jack and his new friends must escape the evil clutches of Mussini and the minotaur-like Death Wranglers that patrol the forest in order to return to the land of the living.

Jack is forced to escape a custom pair of handcuffs that Mussini designed to trap Jack in Purgatory forever, the Devil’s Handcuffs. To satisfy the dead, who desire increasingly dangerous tricks, Jack is forced to attempt the dangerous Chinese Water Torture Cell in an all or nothing escape plan.

Slipped between the chapters are one-page bits on the life of Houdini and his spectacular tricks. From handcuffs to straightjackets to underwater torture and death wranglers what better escapism for the kiddies and the kiddies at heart.

Like Houdini all I want to do is escape here.

Start with Jack's problem, not a description of him. Then tell us who created the problem. Then pose some questions arising from his predicament.

You've got the dog's breakfast of plot points here. Cleanup on Aisle 78

HH Com 77

When Danny Jones, a sixteen year old African American boy, refused to become a victim of a drive-by shooting and defended himself by means he couldn't comprehend his troubles just began. At some level Danny always knew that magic was real and the fairy tales were true accounts of the past but he never dreamed that he was going to step into a dark and twisted tale where the happy ending was far from certain, everybody was not what they seemed, and people used magic for all sorts of things, ranging from cutting hair to controlling half of the world's economy through a vast network of ruthless sociopaths.

Sam, a self-described people investor, takes Danny under his wing and teaches him about magic and history he knows from being in the middle of every pivotal moment of the last century. Sam is desperately trying to keep Danny safe as an endless parade of people with magic abilities, one more dangerous than the other, is trying to kill or enslave him.

We follow Danny for seven days as he's trying to survive, adapt to his new life, and sort out his feelings for Helen, a young woman of Danny's age. At the end, after causing the deaths of several people he cares about and learning from a DNA test unsettling facts about his pedigree, the pressure becomes too much for Danny and he becomes suicidal. Only Helen's intuition can save him but in doing so she might lose her own life.

where to start.
You're opening with the start of the book which is probably not the most compelling thing. The hook here is that Danny has seven days to adjust to the new world he finds himself in when he discovers he's part of the magic world.


HH Com 76

Zoe Chandler can’t wait for her Australian vacation. Her trip to the Great Barrier Reef is supposed to be the trip of a lifetime. But the weather is cold, the wind is vicious, and Zoe’s new turquoise bikini, purchased specifically to match the water, goes unnoticed under her heavy sweater. Shivering and seasick, Zoe spends the trip back to shore clutching a
brown paper bag. Just as she’s ready to celebrate her safe arrival, she spots a body floating behind the boat. The body belongs to a member of her tour group, and when a second person turns up dead, Zoe decides to try her hand at a little detection. Between spying, sightseeing, and flirting with a tall, dark, and handsome stranger, she’s suddenly too busy to worry
that there might really be a murderer on the trip. It’s all a game until Zoe’s best friend is poisoned after drinking Zoe’s coffee. Now it’s personal, and Zoe’s determined to find the killer.

She’s got plenty of choices, with a stiletto-heeled stripper, a sweet southern poodle-owning debutant, a harried mother, and her cheating husband, not counting the mysterious stranger that appears to be following their group. A stranger who knows far too much about
certain people. The good news-Zoe manages to identify the killer. The bad news-she doesn’t figure it out until they’re face to face on the edge of a cliff. Will this be her favorite trip? Or her last?

We have a winner on Isle 76

HH Com 75

Brittan Lee Hayworth is a fifty year old woman with a forty year old secret.

On the eve of Hurricane Dora, Beth Ann Hamilton and Brittan Lee were kidnaped by a black teenager. Marshall Hayworth died attempting their rescue. The building was struck by lightning and burned to the ground also killing BethAnn and the kidnapper.

Brittan Lee was found in a storage building under the Liberty Oak on the court house grounds two days later.

In the steamy summer days of 2005, the skeletal remains of a young girl are found in a car submerged in the Altamaha River, near Liberty, Georgia.

Brittan Lee returns home from a long self-imposed exile to confront her past, but someone doesn’t want her to remember.

FBI Agent Andrew Zeller probes into the events of that summer. Brittan Lee shares stories of white men patrolling the streets under the Liberty Oak, of her father helping men injured during civil rights demonstrations, of meeting Reverend Martin Luther King.

Brittan Lee is in danger from the moment she arrives in Liberty, even as she is greeted by those who forty years earlier had whispered about her father’s death. On the eve of Hurricane Daphne, her namesake niece is kidnaped, left in the same storage building under the Liberty Oak. Brittan Lee finds the strength within herself to help her niece, outwit her attacker and discover the truth behind her father’s death and Beth Ann’s disappearance.

In 1965 you seriously expect me to believe that a black teenager kidnapped two white girls? What the f for? Ransom? yea right.

This plot screams contrivance. I'm not sure what the story actually is. Long buried secrets are over used as a plot device.

You also realize you kill off ol' Beth Ann in paragraph one and miraculously bring her back to life only to lose sight of her in the last paragraph.

Start again. This isn't serving your needs for a good hook.

HH Com 74

The woman was boring, boring, boring. Jennie leaned back on the pillow and studied her, wishing the agency would send someone else, now and then. Gail's eyes fronted a soul as deep as a rain-puddle on asphalt, and were set in a face reminiscent of a sock-puppet. Old, fat, and with opinions that mirrored the lowest of the television talk shows, she sat by the bed, moving her lips as she read. Jennie detested her.

I live in a bedroom prison, and my warden is fashioned from mud. For the dozenth time that day Jennie shook her head and sighed, wishing it were over--wishing her journey toward death would finally end.

But if nothing else, Gail was attentive, and with Jennie's sigh the woman lowered her book.

"Would you like to get some fresh air, Honey? It's nice today, and we could sit in the yard for a while."

Jenny hated being carried down the stairs like a baby, so she shook her head.

"A movie then? I could--"

"No. I'm okay, Gail. I just want to rest for a while." She closed her eyes, shutting out the room and shutting out her life; removing the sight of her emaciated hands--turkey-claws scrabbling on the quilt--moving backwards to a time when she owned the whole world. A flicker of days to move from the runways of fashion to the bedroom of her confinement. Paris to purgatory in little more than a year.

If only David would come home.

oh good. Dying people.
Whiny ones too.

This isn't a hook, it's probably a prologue. There's a reason you need a hook in a query letter if you're going to open with this: you need to give me a reason not to smother this one with an embroidered pillow that says "Why Miss Snark Loves Satan".

HH Com 73

In *The Story of Them* (a 90,000-word literary novel), a mysterious pandemic and its aftermath reduce the human population to mere millions worldwide. Along the Eastern Canada-U.S. border, ten canny survivors encounter each other while fleeing the cities, then decide to band together and pool their resources. After finding suitable shelter in the countryside and arranging informal divisions of labor, they start to tell stories about how they lived before and during the Events. Like the nobles in Boccaccio’s The Decameron, these seven women and three men – among them, a "historician" who becomes the group’s de facto leader, the Indo-Canadian medico who is his partner, a famous South African tenor caught on tour, a striking, near-mute young horseman, and a Cuban-born jill-of-all-trades – use the power of narrative to help them ride out the effects of a plague, and eventually adjust to a frighteningly changed world. They also come to realize their hidden talents and deficiencies – their own and each other’s. By story’s end, not only do we understand why these ten happened to be spared the plague, but we have a glimpse of what fresh challenges await them.

oh dear dog.
Miss Snark really is rather offended that she's not among the Elect.

You've fallen victim to using ethnicity as shorthand.

You've also described complete yawn of a plot. Surely there is a flaming coiffeured, poodle pampering difficult to live with literary agent to act as the antagonotrix somewhere in there.

And before you get all hot under the collar about that and start yapping about Chaucer, let's just remember what year this is.

HH Com 72

Being the youngest daughter of the Devil has never been easy. Daphne's father has little time for her, her mother, little interest, and her status in the upper echelon separates her from the
working-class demons that populate Lucifer's metropolis. Confined to the family high-rise, she amuses herself by collecting costume jewelery and plastic memorabilia, but when her brother and only confidante goes missing, life in the restrictive city of Pandemonium becomes intolerable. With plans to locate her brother and thus win their mother's elusive affection, Daphne sets out for Earth—and finds it larger and more chaotic than she imagined, a dazzling expanse of noise, dirt, and random violence.

Despite her initial bewilderment, she navigates the mortal world with growing fascination, gaining a grudging ally when she purchases a dying boy from her father's minions. Unfortunately, Lucifer's agents are not the only creatures on the prowl, and Daphne soon finds herself in a reluctant standoff with a few of Heaven's more dogmatic officials. Now, equipped with a straight razor and unshakable optimism in the world's virtue, she must evade a demon-eating monster, save her brother from an angelic zealot, and rally the goodness in
people who have been told all their lives that they are irredeemable.


HH Com 71

Low-Rent Rendezvous

Jon Griffin plays by the rules. Twenty-year Navy career. Dependably dull marriage. But when his wife ditches him and he drowns his sorrows at Foxwoods, fortune smiles upon him. The Wheel of Fortune, that is. Even though he’s got to split the jackpot with his soon-to-be-ex, he’s got money to retire and follow his dreams. Trouble is, he hasn’t been dreaming in a while.

Nostalgic for his past, he drifts to the southernmost point in the United States, a town he defended and drank through as a young sailor--- Key West, home to crackpots and creative geniuses, barflies and bums, hippies and hot young women. He buys a T-shirt shop with an attached rental, thinking retirement isn’t bad. Where else can you get paid to make people look stupid by imprinting their T-shirts with slogans like Beer, it’s not just for breakfast anymore and Rehab is for quitters?

Griff’s entrepreneurial success is marred by just one fly in the ointment---a very pretty fly, Jamaica Jensen, who is squatting in his garden shed. Her mother has bribed him with nutritious smoothies from her shop, but Griff can’t swallow the fact he’s got an illegal tenant with a composting toilet in his backyard. Where’s a guy supposed to put his scooter, bike and motorcycle to fully enjoy the Conch Republic? He’s all set to pull rank, meet her and evict her, when he stumbles upon Jamaica’s dead husband. Now Jamaica’s really in a jam.

Everything is backstory up to paragraph 3. I'll bet you have a lot of that in your novel don't you? I see that all the time.

Once you've gotten us started in the right place, THEN tell us more about Jamaica and the dead mr.

HH Com 70

Set in and around modern day Manhattan, “From the Shadows” is a roughly 85,000 word horror novel combined with a dose of historical fiction.

The hook starts here
Doron Parker is a thirty-something graphic artist whose fiancĂ©e is killed in what seems like a random act of violence. After waking up in a hospital having survived the attack and learning the police have no leads, he decides to uncover on his own what really happened. This journey takes him from his nightmare filled childhood home on Long Island to the “hidden” downtown streets that form the labyrinth of lower Manhattan. Along the way he discovers unimaginable truths, first and foremost that not only was the love of his life’s killer a creature not of this world…but he created this creature through his art.

Simultaneously, the unassuming and elderly Henry Aaken returns from a sinister lunch-time meeting to find his bookstore completely destroyed and his longtime business partner savagely killed. After hundreds of years, he still carries with him the guilt of many innocent lives lost to the creatures he created through his art, and isn’t sure how to move on and stop punishing himself. With the unexpected realization that someone else in the world carries this “gift”, he must seek out and protect this person.

Unbeknownst to both, not only is there a deep rooted connection between the two, but there are much larger forces at work who will stop at nothing to destroy them.

too many words, not enough specifics.
nameless, faceless evil is boring.

Crapometer Update

Thanks to Killer Yapp's voice recognition software, everyone now should have a number.
If you do NOT have a number, you MUST email me and let me know.

some of you failed to put "ok to post on blog" in the email. I let the ones slide that were in the subject line but I swear to dog when you're doing 700 emails
following the damn directions is better than "thank you>

A couple of you failed to send more than one from different email addresses. Deleted also.

There are no appeals from the Trash can.
I have almost 700 of these to go through.

Let's just hope I live long enough.

This is going to take a LOT longer than I thought so plan accordingly.

We WILL get to pages. If I've asked you for pages, send them. I have them in a special folder.

If you've sent other emails, I'll respond, but later.

Now, back to the Crapstravaganza..aka Miss Snark's "What I did on my Christmas vacation".

Get the fucking Clue Gun

It's a little late now, but for next time you might take into account that your blog readers can't intuit your intentions. You said "hook," something with a multitude of meanings within the craft. As someone who came in on this only last week, and who made a search of the links you provided--and as one of those who misunderstood--it might be useful to see the chain of reasoning that followed my reading of what you provided:

Hook? What's that? Does she mean in a query? I can't tell, there doesn't seem to be anything that says, "this is what I want, and this is what I mean by hook."

A query? She never mentions the word, and at a single page a query is no more then five-hundred words long. And in any case the hook in a query is no more then a couple of paragraphs, so there would be nothing more to send.

What about past crap-o-meters? Hmm... This one is all scenes and that one is queries. No help there.

The rear cover blurb? No, that's not seven hundred words long, and the author doesn't get to write that.

But... Okay, in music a hook is what makes you come back in the song, so I guess she must be talking about the hook in the opening of the story that makes the reader turn to the next page saying, "I wonder what happens next." That fits the format of two submissions she mentioned, so...
- - - - - - - - - - -
One piece of advice I always give new writers is avoid the mistake of "you know what I mean," when writing. I guess it applies to agents, too.

Yea, I see I've made a huge mistake.
How about I just stop right now.

Killer Yapp Saves the Day

Killer Yapp now has his own gmail account so some of you will be hearing from him.
Make sure you admire his festive new green and red plaid tam and winter boots. He's quite proud of them (LL Bean of course).

HH Com 69

When Cyril Kasparos wakes up one morning, suddenly able to hear thoughts, the first thing he does is work up the confidence to ask out the girl he’s had a crush on. That settled, he tries to figure out just where the professor he does research under has disappeared to for the past couple days. Two weeks later, he’s on the floor of a San Francisco townhouse with
half a bullet in his head.

Detective James Burton already knows part of what happened in between; he helped the FBI raid Cyril’s then-empty Berkeley apartment two days ago. For the rest, he turns to the journal the man’s left open on his home computer, addressed “To the person who finds my body.” What follows is a detailed account of Cyril’s final days. Everything Burton needs to close
the case – if any of it’s true. Can he really believe there’s a corporate conspiracy against alternate energy research? Or an underground society fighting it? People to whom hearing thoughts is just a byproduct of being able to manipulate matter and energy itself?

Whatever Cyril got himself into – it’s not over yet. Even as Burton considers the anecdote, he’s forced to shoot around the Bay Area, dealing with unsolicited FBI agents, mysterious new blood stains and the disappearance of the ambulance carrying Cyril’s body. As the incidents
pile up, Burton realizes he’s got hours, not weeks, to figure out just what happened. Or the case – and whatever Cyril died for – will be gone forever.

There's a lot to forgive here, but I'm going to look past "underground society" cliches because of COURSE the first tthing you'd do if you could hear people's thoughts is try to date a hot chick. Well...hot guy in some of our cases.

This isn't the best hook I've ever seen, and I'm not sure the plot isn't hackneyed, but I'm going to ask for pages just in case.

HH com 68

In a time when knights gallantly rode, honor and duty were everything - and young lovers were not always able to follow their hearts

Crown Prince Bartholomew had been Abby’s playmate ever since the death of her parents brought her into his palace. Even as children, Abby and Tholly were inseparable, but as they grew, their friendship changed into a forbidden love.

Tholly depended on his old friend, but that did not change the fact he’d been promised to a spoiled princess since birth.

His betrothal sets Abby on a journey to a faraway kingdom. There, while meeting new friends and enemies, she confronts the depths of her own heart. But when a return trip home reignites old emotions, she has to make the ultimate decision: stay with Tholly at any cost, or find happiness somewhere she’d never thought to look.

oh snore snore snore.
You said in the email this turns Cinderella upside down but hells smells all you did was reverse the genders.

These characters are one dimensional and cliche.

Dig deeper. Get in touch with your inner troll.

HH Com 67 (66 was a duplicate)

When his daughter is arrested and charged with murder, former con-man Trenton Allen is forced to come out of hiding to clear her name, and pull off the biggest con of his life to draw the real killer into the open.
As she sits in jail, his daughter Elizabeth has no idea that she holds the key to a twenty year old case, a deadly secret that would put her father and Louis Bishop behind bars together. For the plan to work, he needs his daughter on the outside, and he needs to pull it off before FBI agent Louis Bishop finds him.
But the real trick for Trenton will be convincing his daughter to trust him, since this is the first time they've met.

Bingo bango bongo

yea yea yea I know there are cliches but this IS a hook and it's a good one.

HH Com 65

Murdered just weeks before his wedding, Thomas Harling arrives in the afterlife, where God informs him that he is not yet worthy of Living. But there's hope. Should he wish to Live, he must spend the next century on earth (1860 to 1960), in service to God, as one of the Deaths of New York City. He goes. Being Death is difficult, but things are further complicated
when Thomas and his Death friend, Pierre, discover that an eight year-old girl can see them –– and that she is the daughter of Thomas's once-fiancee, Anna.

The years pass, and this friendship between a living girl and a dead man soon becomes a maelstrom of forbidden love: Thomas still harbors for Anna his old emotions, and yet Elizabeth has lit inside him strange new feelings and has professed for him unconditional love –– love Thomas has trouble believing is right. He knows that choosing either relationship will
jeopardize his eternal Life, but soon begins to wonder whether there is a reason Elizabeth can see Death.

As he works to solve this puzzle, he begins to uncover the black secret to his murder and his Living. Just as he is approaching the answer, the demon Legion arrives in Manhattan, determined to win Thomas's soul for Hell through Elizabeth. Thomas and Pierre both put their Lives on the side and fight to save Elizabeth's life.

So..this forbidden love thing is what...necrophilia?
Hard sell these days now that Judith Regan is clearing out her desk.

You've got both too much and too little. Too many words and plot points, and too little reason to care about any of these people. Focus on Thomas. Try writing the hook in HIS first person voice, then change to 3rd.

This trope however is old as the hills. You'll need something compelling to get me to read this.

HH Com 64

After more than a decade, superstitious, anal retentive, Amelia Schwartz finally stops mourning her parents' and brother's deaths and vows to direct her own destiny. When she abandons the dating world of gay, married and arrogant men to pursue single motherhood, Amelia ends up as an unparalleled branch in a controversial, twenty-first century family tree. She adopts a frozen embryo from her niece, Summer Curtis.

Amelia's quest to have a baby involves a group effort: Chandy Markum, a South African, Jewish immigrant fertility doctor, provides the technology; Summer, a young, married, over achieving attorney provides genetic ingredients; and Amelia provides a womb. Chandy is preoccupied with the loss of her first love in Apartheid-torn South Africa. Summer has zealous career ambitions, demanding bosses, and friction with her husband over when to start a family. Amelia attempts to apply superstitions, which normally rule her actions, to unprecedented preparations for giving birth to her biological cousin.

Ultimately, these three women's participation in the groundbreaking procedure of embryo adoption intertwines their lives in unexpected and heartbreaking ways. The players must confront the reality that no matter how humans devise technology to manipulate reproduction, prolong life, and construct family units we have not yet mastered complete control over our beginnings and our ends.

So, what does the doctor being Jewish have to do with anything. Nothing annoys me more than using religion or race or appearance as shorthand for CHARACHTER. It's the worst form of lazy ass writing.

Also you've got the same problems with issue driven fiction we saw earlier. And your main character needs to get in touch with Dykes on Bikes and release her inner lesbian cause any woman who thinks all men are either arrogant, married or gay has a problem with men that might be better explained at the local GLBTG walk in counseling center.

Your story is a woman gives birth using assisted reproductive technology. So what? Millions of people do that. It might have been groundbreaking 10 years ago. It's so old hat now Jerry Springer can't even muster up outrage over it.

HH Com 63

While searching for his ex-girlfriend's runaway cat, Hollywood actor Michael Chambers finds instead a shape-shifting doppelgänger intent on stealing his life. The shape-shifter works for a faction of militant faeries who want to cast a spell to literally turn Michael into his TV alter ego, The Mediator, a supernatural superhero whom they believe has the power to prevent a faerie war that would destroy both their world and Michael's. When the spell goes awry, it's up to Michael to transform himself from pampered celebrity to genuine hero in order to prevent an inter-dimensional apocalypse. Oh, and then there's the getting back his life. Stupid cat.

Well, KY likes the last part of course.
I kinda like the idea of militant faeiries. Do they live in Chelsea?

As hooks go, this isn't half bad but honest to dog my first reaction is "wtf". Maybe some of the comments can offer insight.

Remember, this isn't my genre at ALL, so consider the source.

HH Com 62

Al Morales used to be the meanest son-of-a-bitch in his gang; a soldier who did whatever it took—no matter how bloody or cruel—to achieve the objective. But those days are long gone. Now he has a normal life, with a Wall Street job, a penthouse apartment, and the old Al—the monster—locked away deep inside.

But when Sterling Delano—Al’s boss and mentor and surrogate father—drives down GM’s stock price with a virus planted in the New York Stock Exchange computer then frames Al for the raid, Al’s new world is shattered. Civilized Al can’t defend himself against Sterling. To do that, he must face his greatest fear.

Unleashing the monster could cost him his career, his freedom, and his sanity.

Keeping it caged could cost him his life.

It’s a character-driven thriller (about 115,000 words) combining the corporate intrigue of The Firm with the action of First Blood.

Thanks for your time and consideration.

The Incredible Hulk on Wall Street.

when you tell me that the stakes in the novel are the life of the hero, I better care whether he lives or dies. My first choice is always that he dies...and preferably clutching a small bunny in his arms and screaming "I'm sorry I dissed the poodle".

Hilarity aside, you've told me this is a character driven thriller (an oxymoron of course) and then given me stock footage characters.

HH Com 61

In my novel “Cancer of the soul” you will find out what happens when:

You went to The School of Life and majored in cocktailing and tailing cock.

You are a world renowned specialist in dancing on tables, cheating on lovers, boozing away your liver, self medicating, anal bleaching and shopping your Amex into the abyss.

All of “them” are trying to get into your lavish, powered by yoga, vintage couture and antioxidants world. From the out it seems like there is nothing to want. On the in it is scary, empty and painfully lonely.

You graduated with honors from your best friend's funeral.

You fought to stay a kind girl, like you once were, but so much of your soul has been eaten away, that you have no choice but to become an angry drunk.

You looked death in the eye. That glassy eye was full of pain and felt very cold.

You begged to stay here, but you died of cancer at 44 and came to terms with the agony of leaving three kids behind.

You watched the Betsys and the Tovahs try and get along. The Wasps, the Jews, the “Immigrants”, the Gays, the Single-Marrieds, the “Fair and Balanced” and the You.

You realize that people are just shit machines, no matter what season Yamamoto they “dare to wear” in the strip-mall choked, stagnated Boston suburb.

You know that it isn't what happens, it is how you deal with it.

This is a mess.
It's also got power and voice.
It wins for 'worst title' so far...but I wouldn't write a form rejection on this.
This one gets the "you have energy and a story; now learn how to tell it".

HH Com 60

When rural southern White Supremacists with money to blow from methamphetamine profits, work with eastern European Neo Nazis to move art looted by Nazis during WWII, Blake Crowley struggles to uproot a former Miss Peachtree from being planted in the middle of the infighting.

As the Moustache foamed, I looked around for affirmation. He removed his blazer and rubbed drops of sweat off his forehead.
Reds enameled nail tapped on his broad shoulder “You have a blood stain on your back,” she said.
His sudsy mouth formed a peculiar smirk. He coughed deeply and splattered blood onto my bar.
Slurpie slurred, “Hey put your hand over your mouth when you cough.”
The Moustache fell off his stool.
I walked around the bar, “Are you alright?” I asked, nudging him with my foot.
Exasperated, Red shouted, “Come on Blake, you can do better than that.”
I faced Red, “Get me the dish gloves, stat.”
Red threw me an unopened pack of gloves. “I’m calling 911,” she said.
Slurpie said stat three times.
With ten latex covered fingers pointed upward, I kneeled over him.
The Moustache needed divine intervention, as he hacked out what looked like a rare piece of sirloin. I glanced up at Slurpie. He nervously blinked back. With less luck than the Little Dutch Boy, I held my finger in the bloodstain.
In my peripheral vision, the sirloin wiggled. I threw up on his pants, jammed his blazer into my face and made for air.

This is a log line (used in movies but not in query letters) and what I think is the first page of a novel.

neo nazis and meth dealers
stolen art

yawn central.

The art of good writing is not throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. The art is making the very simplest of kitchen appliances..the potato peeler...utterly fascinating.

Pare down.

HH Com 59

It's difficult to compose any type of meaningful query letter for this type of book. And none of my stories fits within the 250 word limit, so including one here would be certain form-letter rejection. I suppose I could use the text-message shorthand that's so popular with the younger
generation these days. But somehow I think asking you to "Pls rd my buk its gr8" would result in a midnight visit by a certain white attack poodle intent on permanently removing me from the literary world before I do any more harm.

Although lacking in context, perhaps a short excerpt from one story will help show my style:

After setting up an IV, I was given a briefing by the nurse. One of the things she put a lot of emphasis on was the fact that I would feel very bloated. She kept saying "When you feel a little gas, just push those little bunnies right outta there."

Not for anything, but when I'm visiting a doctor's office to have a tube shoved up my coo for the first time in my life, hearing analogies about the possibility of fuzzy, little bunny rabbits also being stuffed up there doesn't help. I mean really...is there some line of children's books out there that explains flatulence by depicting cartoon bunnies popping out of the rear-ends of little kids, while they blush and go 'Ooopsie'?

If you can't describe your book to me, how am I going to describe it to an editor? The sales force at the publisher? a bookstore buyer? Michiko at a the next Rollerderby match?

Don't pull the old " oh I can't do this but just read my novel and you'll see". That IS an automatic no. Suck it up. It's hard. Do it.
And dear dog, don't open with fart jokes unless you're writing for 8year olds.

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Becky Smith, a religious housewife, prays to be delivered not just from evil but from difference, and worships at the altar of Mercury Feeny's perky evangelical website. Now, though, Becky's developing allergies to her makeup, clothing, and church. Doctors can't explain it. Her television bombards her with gay sitcom and lifestyle shows she considers 'immoral pornography' when she's alone, and she can't change the channel. A gay magazine arrives in the mail, addressed to her. When she asks who ordered it, she learns she did so herself.

The short hair, overalls, and flannel shirts required by the "allergies" make her look like the stereotype of a mannish lesbian, which alienates most of her family and makes her the shocked target of gay-hating groups she once would have joined. Feeling like a female Job failing every test, Becky reaches out to her idol Mercury, who reads the passionate appeal as a come-on and rejects her. Finally Becky finds herself in an uneasy alliance with a group of gay activists. They defend her, while urging her to explore whether the changes are more than physical. A new self-confidence, a possible love interest, deeper faith, and a more integrated life await her when she breaks free from Mercury's influence.

Redemption by flannel.
This isn't a hook, its a recitation of plot.
And my dog almighty..who is going to read this?
Lesbians? Not likely.
Christians? REALLY not likely

You've got message mixed up with story.
And is she having lesbian psychotic breaks manifesting as random drive by magazine ordering?
Heaven forfend.

Think story, not polemic

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When a young man walks into psychic Teresa Fetter's storefront business and spreads his hands open on her counter, she's startled by the strong connection she feels. She barely remembers Will Savick, the son of a former client; she doesn't know he's there to complete the transaction of violence she set off eight years earlier. But Teresa senses he's come for something vital, and she accepts the challenge.

Over the next twenty-four hours, as she uses her research tools to prepare for Will's appointed reading, Teresa uncovers the tragic events of his life and the role she played in them. Will, still a teen when he accompanied his mother to one of her psychic readings, couldn't bear seeing her beaten afterward—again—by his drunken stepfather. Taking to heart advice he overheard Teresa give his mother, Will slammed the man in the head with a cast-iron griddle, putting him into a coma. As Will says later, "I killed him, he just didn't die." Still haunted by the night's events, Will returns to the source to make sense of his guilt. What happens when Teresa touches his hands will change and heal them both.

You know those cartoon bunnies that renact entire movies in 30 seconds?
This is that..except you've left out the bunnies.

You don't need to worry about the hook (and as hooks go this isn't the worst we've seen), you need to worry about the novel. The entire premise is the psychic is going to heal his guilt?
Please, set my hair on fire now and avoid the long lines.

Im a minimalist of the first order, and all I can say to you is: there needs to be MORE.


My experience as both a furtive card counter and courted high roller lend Mitcheneresque detail in my settings and characters.

A family saga with multiple POV unfolds in three alternating time frames.

Four generations of Richfields gamble with the truth as they reveal the genetic and psychological history they seem doomed to repeat.
My modern-day Scarlett learned about odds from her casino-owning Grandpa Pershing, but ignores them when she seduces her gambling partner weeks before he marries her sister.


“The young redhead pretended to watch the roulette table, her eyes focused on the adjacent $25 blackjack table. Becky positioned herself to see every card played since the dealer returned the six freshly-shuffled decks to the card dispenser. The shoe now holds approximately three decks. Becky is a card counter. A good one….

“After a moment of silence, Becky took a deep breath, leaned close to the Professor, and for once, ignored her own rule about not playing games she could not win….

“Becky was surprised by her boldness, her desperation. It wasn’t like she could win him back from her sister. The game was rigged; there could be no jackpot. Yet here she was, risking it all for one night, a consolation prize….

“Experienced at reading each other’s subtle signals in crowded casinos, their unrehearsed dance choreographed itself. But as they made their way to the bedroom, there were no bells, no whistles, no flashing lights. No winners here.”

This isn't a hook.
This isn't a query letter.
This is an application form for Reject Me Now University.

I have no idea why you have quote marks around all the paragraphs.
This is a mess.

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Welcome to Grafitti Hall, the hallowed hallways of high school, corner of Public and Education.

Come in, hang a right, go up the stairs, first doorway on the left. Meet Libby Logan. Teacher. Mother. Wife. Sister. The good girl next door, everything to everybody.

Everybody’s always told her play by the rules. Be nice. Work hard. Play fair. She never thought it was too much to ask. She’s just wired that way.

And she’s got it all, all together. At least on the surface between 7:30 and 3, and 3 to 11. Beneath that, pipes are bursting and water’s flooding the hallowed halls, washing bright anger and dull hope from the writing on the walls, leaving nothing but swirling shades of grey.

What happens when the rules change? Nobody ever told her the rest of it. About how to keep her head above water; about how sometimes the lesson plan of the day is simple survival for the students, the teachers, her kids, herself.

The hallway’s narrow and straight. It should be easy finding the way; to get from one end to the other, intact. But she’s in uncharted territory, tap dancing blind and furious in the minefield between could’ve, should’ve, might’ve been, and what is.

The hallway’s crowded. There are busy intersections. There’s too much traffic, too much noise, too many choices.

And there’s always too much to lose.

Why should we care?

The thing that always gets me is this could be really good. There's an energy and vivacity here that I like. But there's no bridge to "why I want to read this" so Im just waving at you from the form letter rejection side of the Slush Pile Canyon.

HH Com 54

Angel Fiore and her husband Nick are surprised to find the nude body of a young prostitute in an upscale neighborhood. Both are stunned when their son arrests Lucky Loveland, Nick's best friend, in connection with the woman's murder.

Lucky has bedeviled Angel ever since she was a teenager. So why does she feel responsible for clearing Lucky's name now, almost forty years later? Angel has held Lucky responsible for many misdeeds over the years, but she is certain he is no murderer. Of course, forty-eight hours ago she would have sworn he wasn't the type to visit a prostitute, either.

Armed with surprising information supplied by the abbess at a local monastery, Angel intends to prove Lucky innocent. Even if that means unearthing long-buried secrets, and coming to terms with Lucky's unrequited love for her. Unfortunately, Angel doesn't realize that she is being watched, or that by unmasking a killer, she is placing her son in mortal danger.

I would be very pleased if you would consider representing my completed 73,000-word traditional mystery, For the Love of Angel. Thank you for your time and consideration.

This isn't a hook, it's a plot description.
The first two paragraphs are good, but you need one more, in that vein to finish the arc.

Your motivation is sketchy at best, and you're only hinting at the true stakes of the game in the very last sentence. That needs to be much more developed and brought out earlier.

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“That which does not kill me leaves me scarred” is the underlying premise of my narrative non-fiction, It Looked Good on Paper. In 45,000 words, I detail my rollercoaster life – from childhood klutz – to Silicon Valley startup CEO – to homeless shelter trash – to medical experiment survivor. I candidly relate the trials of coping with 15+ diagnosed chronic conditions and diseases, more than 20 major operations, uncounted hospitalizations, and, perhaps most tragically to some, an unfortunate allergy to alcohol that has deprived me of the blessed effects of gin.

Although the issues are deadly serious, their treatment is anything but! Humorous anecdotes illustrate survival skills I developed as alternatives to despair and suicide. Because these sketches are true, I modified most names and backgrounds. (Although my sister has begged, I still haven’t figured out how to disguise the family relationship.) Thus, I regretfully, but honestly, expose my shame, frustration, and anger as I recount the challenges of managing – and losing – careers, marriages, friends, money, and even such basics as a roof over my child’s head.

With a BA in BS and a Juris Doctor, I am uniquely qualified to analyze and explain the difficulties of the downwardly mobile. My manuscript details real-life experiences with medical professionals (“When it says magna cum perfect on the diploma, I’ll stop asking questions.”) and the situations that brought me their attention. I use laughter to provoke a willing suspension of disbelief that so much misfortune, tragedy and disaster can befall one person.

This isn't a hook, it's a query letter.

You're telling me it's funny without showing me much (other than the gin comment which of course is only funny here).

This kind of "my life" narrative, particulary at 45,000 words is an almost impossible sell.

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In the Kingdom of Cruor, magic ensures that each Queen gives birth to twins: an heir and a spare. Simply by existing, the spare is believed to protect their sibling and over the past centuries has always died first, whether by illness, violence or some other misfortune.

But myth is about to be challenged: the current heir dies on a frosty mountain-side, throwing Cruor into upheaval. The young spare - who has never been spoken to, educated, or loved - is thrust into the public eye. His father, the King, resents him for living in place of his brother and society thinks he's an unfortunate freak.

Then the royal mage discovers the spare's hidden powers. Other citizens bleed from the palm when they magic. The spare can do it invisibly - and now malevolent politicians want to use him as an assassin...

this is a hook.
I don't read enough science fiction to know if it's over used or cliche or been done to death, but this is a hook.

HH Com 51

Marlowe Black fired a .45 caliper bullet through the chest of a murder victim’s husband as the man turned his own silenced pistol on Black’s son Hacker McKaybees when Hacker interrupted their confrontation in Black’s Soho office.

The dead man, Perry Reiser, had confronted Black to keep him from investigating his wife’s death since the alleged murderer, tried and convicted, sat in Attica where he would spend the rest of his natural life unless Black uncovered new evidence.

Black, after talking to the convict’s sister, concluded the near perfect evidence including DNA framed Reggie Jones for a murder he did not commit. He called it a gut feeling. Hacker called it insane.

Perry Reiser’s rash act strengthened Black’s opinion. However, Hacker was not inclined to agree to anything, particularly a case initiated by his otherwise estranged father, without conclusive evidence. However, the shooting made him reassess and he agreed to assist in the investigation.

How they learned the truth that would free Jones led them into the life of a woman who taught both men the meaning of unmerciful.

This is a synopsis. It sux.
Who is the main character?
Why will I care about what happens to him?

As you can see from previous posts "learning the truth" is the most over used cliche of the day.
I'm with Pontius Pilate on that one.
Cross it off your list of useful phrases.

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When an accused embezzler confronts his feisty, mind-reading jury consultant with a secret international plot to destroy the global economy, she risks everything to stop it.

(your hook starts here)
Jury consultant Sylvia Strathclyde reads minds for a living. No one suspects the real reason behind this twenty-six-year-old's amazing success at picking the right jurors for each client. Descended from a long line of mind-readers, who’ve survived the ages by disguising and limiting their rare and frightening talent, Sylvia hides in plain sight.

Disgusted by her mentor--who worships money, not justice--she strikes out on her own, vowing to defend only the innocent. There aren’t many, at least not who can afford a jury consultant. With the rent overdue and her credit cards maxed to the limit, she interviews one last well-heeled defendant. Failure means slinking back home to her carnival fortuneteller grandmother.

But Keith Milikowski, an unorthodox attorney accused of embezzling millions from a high-profile corporate client, won't let Sylvia into his mind. Unable to verify Keith's innocence and because nobody--not one person--has ever shut her out, Sylvia takes the case.

As they select a jury, Keith grows to trust Sylvia. She's not so sure about him. How can she trust a man she can't read? Finally letting down his guard, Keith reveals his own hidden talent, and a conspiracy so vast it threatens not only his life, but the entire world economy.

Interesting premise, then you get bogged down in a blather of stuff that is the imitation of a plot.

This is gussied up chick lit, so suddenly imperiling the entire world's economy is not only out of left field, it defies the imagination. Unless he has the ability to suck up all the water and/or oil in the world...

Focus. Don't be afraid to just make it a fun book.


LOVE: A LA CARTE tells the story of James, a straight guy who unexpectedly falls in love with a gay guy, and Jessica, the woman caught between them both.

Bald and befuddled James, decides the only way to get closer to Jessica is to win over her handsome but cynical roommate Roger. He pretends with Roger at first, eventually becoming emotionally dependent, if not physically attracted. James finally makes a play for luscious Latina Jessica, only to discover that she’s been sleeping with Roger too. Menage a trois is not the answer, as this triangle tries to figure out who has the best angle, and if love can ever transcend sexual orientation.

LOVE: A LA CARTE is a 70,000 word comic novel set in a small gourmet restaurant in Brooklyn. In these metrosexual times, where love is the new religion and finding a mate, a quest for the Holy Grail, LOVE: A LA CATE heralds a new era of free floating sexuality – often misunderstood and seldom fictionalized.

Chapters from LOVE: A LA CARTE have been published in [-- Literary Quarterly] and [Respected Print Journal].

So, the plot is how they figure out who to sleep with?

Given you've had chapters published you probably write well, but there's absolutely no hint of a plot here.

And people figuring out who to sleep with is interesting only if you are the person.

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When you ask your new boyfriend what he does for a living the last thing you expect to hear is Challenger of the Faith, Tempter of Man, or Warden of Lost Souls and False Apostles. This, however, is the answer Lilly Danasha receives from her new boyfriend Luc. Lilly's never been quite sure what to believe when it comes to religion, but she's pretty sure this was never even one of the options.
Luc's claims become even more outrageous when he weaves a tale about Lucifer's revolt being an elaborate scheme orchestrated by God to weed out those who would betray him. After a long exile on earth, Luc finally gets fed up with being the bad guy. He chooses Lilly, a young woman with literary aspirations, to tell his tale and finally get his side of the story out there. Luc lays open the truth behind the Bible and what really happened in hopes of finding some relief from being hated by those who surround him.
India Wings is the story of a young woman who falls in love with a man who claims to be the most nefarious villain the world has ever known. You thought your man was bad, try dating Old Scratch himself.

This isn't bad as hooks go, but you've got two mutually exclusive ideas: "the most nefarious villain" and "tired of being the bad guy". This can work if India is the one who's puzzled by a what she "knows" and what she sees but setting it up like this is discombobulating.

Plus, this better be funny. I'm not taking anything that seriously explores Satan dating a girl to the market place.

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GOTTA GET A Q, a 35,000 word young adult novel, follows former nerd and current bombshell, Bianca Hadrian. She is on her way to becoming a dating legend. In her two years of high school, she has dated a guy for every letter of the alphabet, except for Q. When she finds out that the new kid's name is Quincy, she's positive it's her destiny to date him and accomplish her dream, but that might be hard. When she meets Quincy, she sees that he carries a man bag, paints his nails pink, and uses jazz hands. Chances are he'd rather be the Homecoming Queen than date her. This is a major dilemma—until Bianca has to deal with a catastrophe of uber tragic proportions.

This device is silly beyond measure.
It's useful only to make the plot happen and thus looks forced.

The idea of wanting to date a guy who's really gay was funny in Clueless...in 1995.

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Mrs. Bonaparte is the mother of five nearly grown children. After filling her days with television and jelly doughnuts, she concludes it's time to reconcile her role as mother with the other part of her.the person she also knows she is, but never has had time for. Seeing this as a metamorphosis, she sets out to find whether she can jump-start her transformation.
In the meantime one of her son's brazenly drops out of school. The other embarks on a cross-country train journey to make an apology to Maria Paradiso - a girl he met briefly at his sister's college he thinks he may be in trouble for stalking. Although no one knows it, Bobbie's brother Tobias, is driving to see sister who has sent him a disturbing letter. (Little to nothing is known about the fifth and the oldest child Hunter, except that no one knows where he is and the family does not to talk about him).
Meanwhile, Mr. Bonaparte, a local policeman, has befriended Gunner Stokes, a onetime jazz virtuoso, and former convict. While waiting for her transformation, and her children, Officer Bonaparte and Gunner run the streets of Denver with their newly assumed identities, Pancho and Lefty.

And why would I want to read about this crew of miscreants?
Focus on one person. Figure out why they are interesting.