Friday, June 17, 2011


I include this among the classics because it gets brought up frequently, mainly for the comments. Wonder how the author's doing.

Fugue State

1. When the tiny nation of Balmagowry develops weapons of mass destruction, its despotic leader embarks on a worldwide campaign to forcibly replace hiphop with Baroque contrapuntal music.

2. Bob doesn't understand why he's so down...until he discovers the soul-sucking parasite attached to his head. This will ruin Bob's sex life--unless he can find the parasite a new victim!

3. After waking from a coma with amnesia, a scientist has visions of a beautiful woman. Are his visions a result of cranial damage? Images from his past? Or are they, as he suspects, a message from a celestial existence?

4. When the entire population of Montana suffer an abrupt change of identity, can Lieutenant Governor Grace Hackel save nine hundred thousand people who suddenly believe they're all opera singers? Or will she abandon them to pursue her own dream of performing at the Met?

5. Friedrich's wife ran off with a violinist--in Friedrich's car. After cleaning out Friedrich's bank accounts. His daughter ran off with a drummer, and took Friedrich's dog. Friedrich is pretty much fugued.

6. Maureen is distressed. Carter, the hunky composer she's been dating, disappeared for three days, and now he claims he can't remember anything about his past. Is he telling the truth, or is this a lame ploy to get Maureen to dump him?

Original Version

Dear EE

I have an 112,000 word work of literary fiction that I feel your expertise may be able to help traverse the road to publication.

“Fugue State” is the story of Sinjun Tate, a young, brilliant, behavioral science professor at Colorado University who awakens from a coma suffering what only seems to be amnesia. Motivated by a Dissociative Fugue, a condition that forces the victim of traumatic and repressed events to flee the environment around him, Sinjun wanders the streets of Denver, alone and destitute with faded hopes of piecing together the fragmented memories of his past.

Falling prey to violent, unconscious seizures that have scavenged his mind his awakening, he repeatedly sees the strange, lucid visions of a beautiful woman in a utopian land and of a little girl in a train station, both of who’s obscure advice is delicately woven into the answers he so desires. [Well, it didn't take long for this to go from, Hey, this might be interesting, to Next query.] Can he unravel the mystery of their vague existence? Are these visions simply the result of cranial damage done by the unknown cause of his coma? [If he knows he was in a coma, I assume he woke up in a hospital. If you wake up from a coma, and the cause of the coma is unknown, and you have amnesia, are they likely to release you?] Or are these idyllic dreamscapes something more? Perhaps a subconscious attempt to free his own tortured soul from an unbearable past? Or could they be a message from a more…celestial existence? [I keep seeing visions of a little girl in a train station. No doubt someone on a planet orbiting Rigel Kentaurus is trying to send me a message.] [Oh, right, I was supposed to pick up my daughter at the station . . . How long was I in the coma?]

As he begins to unearth all the cosmic possibilities of his minds illustrations, he encounters a society of malevolent drifters who live beneath the social lining of Denver’s lower downtown district. [It's a winter coat metaphor. The lower downtown district is a coat, Coors Field is the lining, and the drifters live in the catacombs beneath the stadium.] Fueled by carnal instincts, the clan of mysterious vagabonds deviously coerce him through a labyrinth of conflict, threatening to derail him from his desperate search. [I hate it when a writer first discovers the thesaurus.]

When a chance reunion with an attractive former student occurs, he realizes, despite his deteriorating psyche, that he must keep her existence in focus as she may be the only one who can help him escape the wrath of destitution and uncover the cause of his mind’s affliction. This however, will prove to be the worst scenario of all as Sinjun’s once ambiguous reveries eventually suggest a truth more horrible than his own potential end. [I'm sure you know what you're trying to say, but you're trying to say it too impressively, and it's falling flat.]

“Fugue State” is a multidimensional literary journey through similar themes of “What Dreams May Come” with the maddening psychological uncertainty of “Memento”. [Good movie. Though the idea of showing scenes in reverse order was done two years earlier in Seinfeld's wedding in India episode. No doubt they stole it from someone else.] [Describing your book by referencing a movie is unlikely to help.] Various chapter flashbacks chronologically carry the reader through Sinjun’s life to the ultimate point of conflict just as Sinjun arrives there himself.

My wife and I moved to Colorado from our Connecticut home in September of 2005, in an attempt to bring as much truth to the setting as possible. This is my first complete manuscript and I declare that so far, I am simply a lifetime writer of hobby. I do hope that my talents will present a respectable resume in place of a portfolio.

I am confident that this work will strike an interest you. If so, I look forward to further correspondence. However, I am extremely appreciative of the time you’ve taken in reading this regardless, and wish you continued success in all your evil endeavors.


Revised Version

Dear EE

Fugue State is the story of Sinjun Tate, a young, brilliant behavioral science professor at Colorado University who awakens from a coma suffering what seems to be amnesia. Driven by a Dissociative Fugue, a condition that forces the victim of traumatic and repressed events to flee the environment around him, Sinjun wanders the streets of Denver, alone and destitute.

With fading hopes of piecing together his fragmented memories, Sinjun repeatedly sees lucid visions of a little girl in a train station and of a beautiful woman. Are these visions simply lingering effects of his coma? Or are they perhaps a subconscious attempt to free his tortured soul from an unbearable past?

A chance encounter with a former student gives Sinjun an opportunity to find the source of his mind’s affliction--if he can pull himself together. But even as he learns more about his past--and his visions--he realizes that discovering the truth may him lead down the most horrifying path of all.

Fugue State is a 112,000-word work of literary fiction. May I submit the manuscript for your consideration? I am extremely appreciative of the time you’ve taken in reading this.



The revised version is nothing to write home about, but all you've provided is a character wandering around in a fugue state and a few details that may not even be important.

I believe you'd be far better off discussing your book in language you normally use in conversation. Editors are more interested in your ability to organize and convey information than in your vocabulary. If the book sounds like the letter, you need to go through it again and take out all the big words. They aren't helping your cause in the letter or the book. Sorry.

Selected Comments

Blogger December Quinn said...

"My wife and I moved to Colorado from our Connecticut home in September of 2005, in an attempt to bring as much truth to the setting as possible."

Must be nice. I would have been forced to just set the book in Connecticut, as I cannot afford to move whenever I'm writing a book that may not sell.

Your wife is a real keeper, man. Go buy her some flowers.


Blogger Chris said...

Chris says to that:
Trust me its certainly not like that. We left a 78,000 income for a 32,000 income here so that I could write this book. We've defaulted on all our loans and my car has been reposessed. We've eaten pasta for 4 days straight. So no. It's not "nice" but damn it, the book will be published.

And I appreciate all the comments, good and bad. But for crying out loud, most of you want specifice details and then you want me to waste valuable time explaining how he got out of the hospital. Let's be reasonable.

Blogger Malia said...

Chris -- living your dream is all well and good, but don't ruin your life over it. Go back to CT or get a better job. It's a long road to publishing and when you sign that golden contract, it's even a longer road before you realize any financial stability. Oh yeah, and if you can't take the heat -- don't step into the frying pan.

Blogger Catja (green_knight) said...

get a grip, get a job, and stop becoming a martyr for your art. It's not very becoming.

How long have you got before your money, your determination, or your wife runs out? Two years? (a recently mentioned average for 'beginning to write seriously' until first success sets in - which might well be 'interesting an agent'.

And then you sell, and get a $7500 advance. (That's already slightly above the average for a first time author, at least in the fields I'm familiar with). 1/3 on signing, 1/3 on acceptance, 1/3 on publication.

Are you planning to live off that?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Chris,

Your post here is a zillion times more readable than your query. Please listen to EE's point about "discussing your book in language you normally use in conversation."

Anonymous Nut said...

Chris: Take December Quinn's advise about those flowers. Especially after what you just said, about the reduced income and... oh, horror! Pasta diet!

Word of advice: my grandmother makes home made pasta. It's easy, just mix some flour and water, make the dough, cut it with a knife, in tiny strips... Just in case, you decide to move again, and this time have even less money.

Finally: try not to lighten up.

PS: I nominate Chris' wife for sainthood.

Okay, end of episode.

Blogger Chris said...

If I needed advice on a personal level I would write Dr. Phil. All I wanted was to get some critique on the query -which I did, some - and for that I thank you. No martyr here. Just keeping the blogospheres personal assumptions in line.

I should have my own blog up and running tonight. I have decided, in my apparent non-wisdom of the subject to chronical each and every step of the road to publication. A writer takes his blogopanions on a journey through the wicked and wonderous paths to publication. I'm sure all or most of you have or are currently traveling the same path but I think it will be fun for everyone to follow day by day, the eventual success or eventual failure of one of their own. I invite you all to join me for whatever pleasure you see fit. I will leave detailed updates, from agent comments to my own thought process with the writing. I will periodically submit excerpts, pages and maybe even chapters, thus throwing myself to you, the proverbial wolves. Maybe all I need is a stronger query letter. Maybe I need to burn the entire manuscript. Either way, let's find out what happens together. There is no underlying motive here. I'm going through with it as I've planned all along. I just thought this might be fun...Go ahead, hammer away...


Blogger Chris said...

The Blog is at ""


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This guy doesn't get it. It wasn't just using long words that didn't work. It was spelling them wrong and using them incorrectly that didn't work.

You can't fake a world-class vocabulary. Even a high school kid will see right through you. The good news is that you don't need a world-class vocabulary.

I still think the story Chris wrote is good. It probably needs to be revised the same way his letter did though. But the combination of his arrogance about his own work and his ignorance of how long it can take even to get his attention -- it's going to be fatal.

Anonymous Dr Nut said...

I dunno... Maybe Dr Phil is a good idea, Chris, to work off some of that anger. Oh, well, good luck anyway. Hope you can manage to cool down, long enough to REVISE. Its not the end of the world... Wait a minute, it is, cause you just addressed THE ULTIMATE EVIL(editor). Bahahaha!!!
End of pity.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just out of interest, was it his idea or his wife's to move house and swap the big fat paycheck for a pasta-based diet?


This query was posted in July of 2006. Two months later, this case of a man who went missing in September of 2006 and ended up in Denver, in a fugue state, was publicized. Coincidence?


BuffySquirrel said...

He hasn't updated his blog since 2006, so who knows?

Mother (Re)produces. said...

Actually, this makes me kind of sad. He wrote a whopping 5 blog entries before he gave up on that...

Yeah, wife is either up for sainthood or a Darwin award.

OP, I sincerely hope you're OK out there...

150 said...

THIS guy! :D Wow, I wonder what ever happened to him. And how long they lived on pasta.

Naomio said...

This query is crazy and I got bored trying to dumb down the words to make the paragraphs make sense as I went through it.

Incidentally, I couldn't help but have a nosey at his blog and it seems that he stopped posting a few days after making it? I hope I've missed something because I'd like to see if he ever got published (or at least got off his high horse).

alaskaravenclaw said...

Oh jeez.

When people with no publication credits and no apparent talent quit their jobs to write, I always assume they really just wanted to quit their jobs.

But this guy took a lower-paying job... or else his wife did, it's not clear. Come to think of it, it was probably his wife.

Okay. So he really just wanted to quit his job.

I quit my job to write after my fourth book was published. $32k a year seems like pie in the sky to me.

Just sayin'.

Do you ever wonder if encouraging people to write is... well, Evil?

Jo-Ann said...

I admire people who give up the daily grind to follow a dream. Moving states for the sake of research is a good enough excuse as any to relocate - even if it sounds odd to boast about it in the query. After all, it's not as if he moved to Tanzania or Iraq where the culture is really dissimilar.

Unless this guy has debts and/ or children to support, a couple can live ok on a single income. Many of us actually enjoy pasta! The times when I've been really poor, it was lentils and rice and getting around by bike.

I'm not going to pass judgement on his wife. She is, after all, an adult. Maybe they made a deal - she supported him for a year to let him indulge his dream, and the following year (2007, presumably) was her turn to take up painting/ screenplay writing or whatever.

Or maybe they had a baby and all of a sudden, it was back to the day job!

Maybe he'll notice the sudden surge of traffic on his blog (yes, I had a peek, too!), and navigate back to ee's site and give us an update.

Provided he can find small enough words for us to comprehend....

Sarah Laurenson said...

Wow. The original comments were more interesting (and scary) then the query.

Anonymous said...

I remember this one and have often wondered what became of this angry writer. His blog only lasted a few days, that's not a good sign...