I have moved the whole blog to a new address. Please join me over there as no new posts are being added here and I have removed key info from this old version ...


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Monday, 13 July 2009


Hooray for brave authors: we have another intrepid victim - sorry, subject - for a Submission Spotlight. The author, "Redleg", describes this as the scariest thing he's done. So be gentle! (But not too gentle.) I should also point out that in his message to me he worries that the submission may be "too Yankee-centric" (be proud of it, Redleg!). So, let's assume this is for the US market; and for goodness' sake, let the Brits amongst us not be parochial and insist on our funny UK spellings - the US of A are independent now. All is forgiven. Really. (And frankly, when you've got people like Lynn Behler** inventing horrible things like chocolate martinis, they're welcome to it.)

(**correction - Lynn PRICE. Thanks, Lynn, you eagle-eyed editor, you. Wanta job?)

Before commenting, please note the submission rules, which are not quite the same as those for real submissions. Comments on the last two Submission Spotlights were really constructive (even where they contradicted each other ...) and I'm counting on you for the same again.

The questions to ask yourself are: does this sound like a book that will sell? Does it fit the intended genre? Does it feel like a professional piece of writing? Is this either a fresh voice or does it fit neatly within a commercial genre? How would you improve it? And remember, Redleg has thrown himself on your mercy - be honest but always constructive. Please also state whether you have any professional experience in his chosen area - and whether you are reader, agent, editor etc.

Here goes! Good luck, Redleg ...


Dear (Agent Namespelledright),

Jack Pasternak is staring down a row of gun barrels in post-revolutionary Blue America. His only chance to escape the firing squad is to explain to his executioner why he crossed three war zones to save his lover. I hope you’ll consider representing Jack’s swan song AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARIES, a science fiction novel (with a hint of political satire) complete at X words.

Jack’s gallows confessional is the tale of how he survives the Culture War after the shooting starts. Jack leaves his socialized medical practice in California after he receives a cryptic message from his fiancĂ©e in Maryland, “Rescue me.” Three thousand miles of obstacles separate Jack from his lost love including the Las Vegas and Ohio war zones, the independent Mormon State of Deseret, and the entire enemy nation of Red America. With a pot-dealing barista and a partisan warlord (warlady?) in tow Jack takes off in a gas-fueled convertible on an old fashioned road trip through a very brave new world.

Below, per your submission guidelines, I have included the first 500 words of my manuscript. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Best Wishes,


Chapter 1

His back against the brick wall, Jack Pasternak contemplated the discordant row of bayonets and gun barrels pointed at him. The cord binding his wrists was a little loose, but even if he did pull a Harry Houdini he would be gunned down like a rabid dog before he got five paces. His options were as follows: die now or die later. Neither was particularly attractive.

“Blindfold?” the Blueist sergeant asked.

Jack shrugged.

“Sure, why not,” he said.

Even as a physician Jack still looked away from his own inoculations. He tried to imagine the firing squad as a big fat inoculation against further breathing, but even he found that metaphor a bit of a stretch.

The Blue sergeant leaned in close to Jack and whispered conspiratorially, “I’d have to fill out the requisition forms. Honestly, we probably wouldn’t be able to get any blindfolds back from the front before tomorrow. So it’s kind of an exercise in futility to even bother trying.”

A lifetime of familiarity with Blue bureaucracy left Jack surprisingly unsurprised. He didn’t even bother to ask why the sergeant had offered him something he couldn’t provide. Asking such questions simply wasn’t done.

“How about a joint?” Jack asked.

The firing squad erupted in scornful mutters and shuffling feet.

“There’s no toking in public here,” the Blue sergeant scolded.

“Just as well,” Jack said with a sigh, “I don’t toke anyway. How long is it until sundown, anyway?”

With no better way of telling, the Blue stared up at the sky. In a streamie Jack would have kicked the Blue in the balls, wrenched his wrists free from their bonds, and run off amidst a hail of poorly aimed bullets. Since this was real life instead Jack just waited quietly for his captor’s assessment of the time.

“Well, there’s no need to wait, I suppose,” the sergeant generously decided, then added, “Unless there’s anything else…?”

It wasn’t really a question, but Jack had only ever seen condemned men offered three things in streamies: a blindfold, a disgusting tobacco cigarette, or…

“Do I get a last request?” Jack asked hopefully.

The sergeant exchanged a glance with the senior member of the firing squad, a corporal Jack had heard the others call Toomey. Toomey shrugged, offering his boss little assistance.

“Well, it is almost sundown,” the sergeant pointed out.

“But not quite,” Jack countered.

The sergeant looked back at the sky, as though hoping that staring a little harder would hasten the sun on its path. Despite his angry glare, though, the sun made its inexorable descent at the same rate it did every day.

“Well, what’s your request?” the sergeant asked.

“I want to plead my case,” Jack said.

The sergeant scratched the back of his neck.

“Okay, go ahead,” he said.

“Not to you,” Jack scoffed.

“Well, who then?” the sergeant asked.

“Who signed my death warrant?”