Wednesday, July 29, 2009

48 Query Contest

BOOBS OVER HOLLYWOOD is the whacky story of Lena’s journey from working on a cheesy reality TV show to becoming a cellist with the L.A. Philharmonic. If Nora Ephron and Carl Hiassen, in some parallel universe, decided to collaborate, this book might be the result.

Lena Carmichael, 34, has dreamed of becoming a cellist with the Los Angeles Phil for as long as she can remember. While she waits for her big break, she works as a “go-fer” on the wildly-successful reality TV show The McBoob News Hour, where big-haired, big-busted women vie for a news anchor position. “Think Barbara Walters, but with really big titties,” quips Tony, her idiotic boss. Her husband, Max, who is opening a chain of Chinese-Mexican fusion restaurants in Southeast Asia, urges her to forget the cello concentrate on the TV show, because “that’s where the money is.” What keeps her going is her up-coming recital, which could be her big chance to impress representatives of the L.A. Phil. At the recital, a fistfight erupts between Lena’s father and Casey O’Casey, her mother’s new lover, a little troll of a man who just happens to be the world-distributor of garden gnomes. The recital ends up looking like a hockey match with wardrobe by Dolce & Gabbana. When O’Casey later mysteriously dies, Lena and her entire family are placed under an “umbrella of suspicion.” Lena manages to untangle herself from O’Casey’s death, a failing marriage and her all-consuming job. Finally, there is the tiniest hint of harmony in her life. And maybe a little romance with the handsome detective who bears an uncanny resemblance to Al Pacino in SERPICO.

I am the recipient of an EMMY and a Writers Guild of America Award, working in television for over twenty-years. Sadly, my portrayal of TV isn’t that far off the mark. I am also the co–author of Letters from Cleo and Tyrone (St. Martin’s Press, 2000).

With all the cheesy reality shows out there, the timing seems perfect for BOOBS OVER HOLLYWOOD. Isn’t it about time for something a little goofy, a little absurd, a little satirical -- and a lot funny?

Thank you for your time, and I would be thrilled to send you a portion or the completed 72,000 word manuscript. I look forward to hearing from you.


The kitchen timer buzzed, a jangly, discordant contrast to the strains of theBarber Cello Concerto. Startled by the ugly, instrusive noise, Lena’s fingers fell off the cello’s B-Flat, resulting in a painful howl from the instrument. She quickly shut off the timer and set the cello down gently, then glanced down at her flannel Garfield-inspired PJ’s and frog-shaped slippers and considered -- for about the bazillionth time -- that this was not what she imagined the life of an aspiring cellist to be. She looked at the wall clock. 8:53. Running late. As usual. Time to forget Bach. Time to forget Beethoven. Time to forget Barber. Time to scurry off to work. Time to deal with boobs.


Winded and sweaty from her long trek from the peon parking lot, Lena flew into Building Three, the home of Tony Brewer’s production company, Pilfered Projects Productions. The reception area was starkly modern. Black and glass and chrome with all the warmth and charm of a bus station urinal. She grimaced, as she always did, when she spotted the posters of Tony’s many successful TV reality shows lining the walls: American Icon, Prancing with the Stars, The Incredible Marathon and Endurer: Topeka. Geez, she thought, if you’re going to rip off other shows, couldn’t the titles at least be original?

In her usual uncoordinated style, Lena skidded across the shiny, slippery marble floor toward the reception desk, her long arms and legs flailing in all directions.

Bitsy, the reluctant receptionist, was at her desk watching Lena’s acrobatics through disapproving and decidedly uncharitable eyes. Bitsy was overweight, wildly gothic with dyed black hair and a smorgasbord of body piercings and tattoos.


  1. I've heard agents say that you should never call your novel funny as they think that, if you have to say it, then it isn't true. While I think this novel sounds like it could be a real hoot, I'd remove all references to it being funny and wacky as the description and title make that pretty evident.

    I'd also suggest editing down the synopsis to remove some of the detail. I think agents want the big picture here. Things like the garden gnomes are cute but distracting from the point of the story.

    Last comment: with the exception of the one line that is an actual quote from the book, you should remove all the other quotation marks from the synopsis. I think the agent already knows that you are using words/phrases from your novel.

  2. The query has a lot of plot, but other than Lena's desire to be a cellist, I'm not sure what she wants. The part near the end about the romance with the detective is intriguing, but come way too late in the query. Also, you've got a lot of characters involved, some of whom don't seem to be doing much more than aggravating her, which is fine in the novel itself, but weighs down a query letter.

    The sample page had way too many adverbs and adjectives for my tastes, but again, that's my taste and not someone else's. It just seems a little too overwhelming, if that makes any sense. I like the concept, but I want to see it streamlined.

  3. You lost me at the beginning. I think part of that was because you mentioned Carl Hiassen, who's a children's author, right? So I was thinking about books for children and then saw the protag was 34. The rest of the query still left me confused, I'm afraid.

  4. Your humor and voice hooked me. I felt that at times your description in the sample pages was a little over the top ("reluctant receptionist", "decidedly uncharitable eyes", "gently) and I'd be concerned about the rest of the novel needing some serious trimming, but I would request additional pages.

  5. Partially hooked. Thought the title was a hoot; loved the Nora Ephron reference; but then was stopped by Carl Hiassen. Also the second paragraph is a bit too much like a one page synopsis and needs, in my opinion, to be pared down to just the meat of the story. The credentials at the end are a plus and I love the self-effacing comments in regards to it.

    As to the writing--I'd maybe cut the first paragraph and start past the astericks. More amusing and pulls us in. You can always get to the cello stuff once the reader is hooked.

  6. The first sentence hooked me. I think the title is clever, The second paragraph had a little too much detail for me. There were a lot of people and that made the paragraph feel cluttered.

    I kept reading. I enjoyed Lena's voice in the sample. The first paragraph seemed a little heavy on the adjectives and I was a bit thrown by the break after the first paragraph. That seems a little quick to have a split.

    Overall, I enjoyed the writing and woulf have read more if there was a larger sample.

  7. Kinda hooked, probably because it's not the sort of book I would buy. The other commenter was right that your second paragraph of the query has waaaay too much detail. We just need to know her husband is working in Asia, and we don't need to know about the gnomes yet (though I do love garden gnomes). I think your conflict gets lost in the details. The beginning is all about being a cellist, but the end says her marriage has problems a new romance is in the picture. Both may be important, but show that the whole way through.

    Awesome credentials, by the way.

    The opening of the novel has solid writing, but the first paragraph isn't necessary. Just jump right into her rushing into work, and casually mention the reason she is late.

  8. Query: Sorry not hooked. Mainly not my thing (and I like reality TV). It does look amusing though. :]

  9. The first sentence sets the tone well but I failed to see how the story as described would hold my attention. The query makes it sound like a collection of unlikely vignettes. The author's credentials are impressive enough that I decided to read on but the partial's first paragraph didn't hook me. The writing's okay but there's too much description and nothing significant happening.

  10. Actually, the whole thing reminded me much more of Janet Evanovich than Nora Ephron/Carl Hiassen.

    There's a few grammatical errors that stand out in the query, and inconsistency in the way you classify titles.

    Nevertheless, the query hooks me!

    Sample: Still hooked--and I still think this reads an awful lot like Janet Evanovich.

  11. Loved the query, sort of liked the sample pages- I think if the whole book kept up at that pace, I'd be breathless after a few chapters. Excessive detail works well for humour, but in small quantities, otherwise it's just exhausting.
    However, loved the voice and would keep on reading

  12. I decided to act like some agents, who are very busy, and make a partial form letter and then personalize it. I’m in this contest because I have difficulties writing queries, so my simple critique has to be taken with a grain of salt. I’m not going to address grammar or style, because, usually the agents don’t and you know who you are. I know what I like and am not sure of, so . . . Well I wrote down 3 yes's as I reviewed all 58 which ties you with #15 in my book. I'm very hooked. I love a story which toys with humor, and integrates it into the plot. Then I read your 250...fantastic, great description, funny, and I'd ask for the whole ms.

  13. Love the title; found the opening sentence distracting. I'd re-order so the desire to be a cellist with the LA Philharmonic is first, and then follow with a transition to her present job.

    The second paragraph rambled and bored me. Your bio is impressive and congrats! Mixed on the last paragraph. Not really hooked.

    I assumed your Emmy was for writing and approached your 250 with a bit of hardheadedness. I wanted to see the novel skills to emerge with authority and I didn't feel that they did. Not hooked.

    Your style of humor is engaging and I think you could have showcased this more in a shorter synopsis and your query. I also might have started with some sharp, crisp dialog, which I assume is your strong suit!

    Caution on the Nora Ephron and Carl Hiassen--I needed to see more of their styles in your 250, if so, or I wouldn't use it.

    Best wishes. Still giggling on the Boobs Over Hollywood!

  14. Not hooked. There's too much going on, and too many characters for me to keep straight. And what's her husband doing in Southeast Asia while she's in LA?

  15. The title and the voice really intrigued me, and I liked the craziness of the plot. That second paragraph is probably too long and too cluttered, but that's easily fixed. Consider breaking it up into two or three smaller paragraphs and focusing more on the main plot arc, omitting all but a few of the more hilarious details.

    Your credentials are FANTASTIC. To give them even more weight, include the show(s) for which you received an EMMY and Writers Guild of America Award (although I don't blame you for leaving those details out in a forum like this).

  16. You had me with your first paragraph. I don't know why other people are being thrown by Hiassen, I can only guess that they know him only for Hoot and not for the bulk of his work? (Who said he was a kids' author? Um... no. He's written kids' books, but most of his stuff is very much for grown-ups.) Or maybe it's a personalities thing. ::shrug::

    The second paragraph is by far the weakest link. I didn't even read it, to be honest. I started to, then jumped ahead to who you were. Impressive information there.

    I enjoyed the sample and would certainly ask for more.

  17. I was hooked because you seem very clever in your writing, but like many other commenters, I was thrown off a bit by your second paragraph. I would remove the reference to the Chinese-Mexican restaurants, as well as the garden gnome reference - not because they are not witty, but because I think they bog the query down. The sentence about the detective didn't really work for me, but that might be because I don't think Al Pacino is that hot and I haven't seen Serpico.
    First 250 were ok - agree with others on heavy use of adjectives.

    Congrats on the Emmy and good luck with your query!

  18. Turned off by your title. I think boobs is just so degrading to women, but that's just me.

    Carl H. writes mysteries about Florida. Is this is mystery?

    I did go to read a sample though, based on your terrific credentials.
    I'd lose the first paragraph and start with the second.

    I'm not sure what the conflicts are in this story though. Maybe do an outline to make sure each scene has a conlift in it? Just an idea...

    Good luck with this.

  19. The first thing I notice is the misspelling in the first sentence. "Whacky" should be "wacky."

    I'm not really sure what's going on here, but I'm relatively sure this is too slapstick for me. It's not my kind of thing.

    Wonderful credentials, though you might consider being more specific on shows you won awards for.

    The opening page reveals too many adjectives, which slow down the reading. This should be much easier and quicker to get through, considering your genre, so choose one perfect adjective if you need one.

    The main character looks around a lot in the first paragraph. That may seem like a silly thing to pick on, and characters generally look at stuff to describe it, but try to cut phrases like "She looked" and "She felt". We're in Lena's POV. If there's looking and feeling, we know it's from her.

    This isn't for me. Sorry.