Every Literary Agent’s Dream Novel


So I took a hard hit yesterday. Book 3 of my series got cut from the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.

Although I wasn’t counting chickens or anything, I had high hopes. Book 3 is about Jerry Nunez’s infantry company fighting against a limited cartel incursion on the Texas border. I like to think it’s a pretty good book, but the Amazon judges didn’t agree.

I’m trying to be fair about it. There’s a strong possibility the judges thought my writing sucked. On the other hand, the bitter, angry part of me suspects there will not be a single military fiction novel among the finalists. In the publishing world, military fiction seems to make editors and agents turn away in revulsion.

I’ve been trying to get a mainstream publisher interested in my novels for three years, which is not a real long time. I’ve been told the average successful writer tries for seven years before they make it, and some others have to try a lot longer than that. Karl Marlantes, a Marine VN vet who is an inspiration to me, tried for over thirty years to get his novel published. So I’m thankful for the success I’ve experienced so far. I’m ahead of the curve.

On the other hand, my brief brushes with the publishing industry have been pretty frustrating. Most agents seem to dismiss my genre out of hand. I had a conversation with a male agent one evening, and was sure he would be interested in war fiction. Most agents are female, highly educated, extremely liberal, into chick lit and young adult fantasy, but this agent was into guy stuff.

I told him I had written a novel based on my experiences in the Afghanistan War. He pursed his lips, pondered for a moment. Then he said, “Nah. What else you got?”

Another agent read Proof of Our Resolve and responded, “I don’t think I can place this.” In other words, nobody’s interested. Thank God Tactical16 came along, looking for veteran writers.

In my more cynical, bitter moments (which is most of the time I’m thinking about the mainstream writing world) I chide myself for not following the basic rules of success: add a vampire. Write about zombies or Victorian romance. Don’t waste your time telling the world about amazing, dramatic struggles in exotic lands where ordinary Americans risked and gave their lives to defend an ideal.

Yes, I realize I’m whining. Yes, I sound like Aunt Flow is in town. I’m retaining water. My estrogen levels are high. I’m being a wuss. I’m not considering the likelihood that my writing needs work. Guilty as charged.

But in the spirit of frustrating disappointment, I’ve decided to publish the short story below. This story is without a doubt Every Literary Agent’s Dream Novel. When you finish it, you’ll be so awestruck that you WILL perform the internet equivalent of throwing your panties on stage. If this story somehow makes it across an agent’s desk, I’m guaranteed to get a publishing contract and 64 trillion dollar advance. I hope you guys enjoy it.


Victoria, Caroline and Alberta, daughters of the Widow Duchess Lady Countess Jane Anne Montford Remington, crowded into the drawing room of their sprawling Yorkshire estate mansion. Their mother, tall and elegant, glided into the room. Looking down her prim, aristocratic nose, she said, “Today Mister Farcy will visit, with the intent of choosing one of you as his bride.”

Victoria jumped from her fainting couch. “Mister Farcy? Oh mother, we’ve always so wanted to meet him! I simply must marry him, I must!”

“No, he shall choose me!” Caroline cried.

“But I so love Mister Farcy, I shan’t live without him!” Alberta exclaimed.

“Ladies, control yourselves,” the Duchess commanded. “Mister Farcy will not be amused by such childish outbursts. Whirl about and greet him properly.”

The daughters spun and were shocked to see Mister Farcy behind them in the drawing room. “Mister Farcy!” Victoria exclaimed, thinking, What the f – ? . . . where did he come from?

“It is I,” he answered coldly. Victoria was frozen by his breathtaking handsomeness, his perfectly tailored livery, the eyes that commanded her to be his. Her loins quaked at his brutally masculine voice.

“Mister Farcy, please take me as your wife!” Caroline begged.

“No Mister Farcy, I am by far the best sister,” Alberta pleaded. “You simply must choose me!”

Mister Farcy glared at them with a face of stone. “Enough of this,” he commanded.

They fell silent. “This is our first encounter, we scarcely know one another. I shall only choose a wife after careful consideration and sufficient dramatic pause.” He gazed at the eager faces. “I have made my decision. Victoria will be my bride.”

Victoria’s pulse raced with passionate elation. Caroline burst into tears. She screamed, “But Mister Farcy, I so love you, I just can’t live without you!” and fled the room. Alberta wiped tears and protested, “Mister Farcy, life without you will be so wretched it is not worth living!” She ran from the room after her sister.

Mister Farcy sat beside Victoria and took her hand. Victoria melted at his touch. The Duchess beamed with pride at her daughter. Her family’s financial security was now assured. Mister Farcy took Victoria’s face into his tender palms and leaned in to kiss her.

“Aaaaaaaahhhhhh!” Victoria was startled by the scream and spun around to see her sister Caroline’s body fall past the window to the moat below. The splash was drowned by a second scream as Alberta flung herself out an upstairs window to her death. Mouth agape, Victoria threw her face into Mister Farcy’s muscular chest.
“Oh Mister Farcy,” she sobbed, “my sisters have taken their lives! Oh, what shall I do without them?”

“You must carry on,” Mister Farcy answered in an even tone. “I am your family now. You have lost all else.”

Victoria lifted her head. “But Mister Farcy, I still have my mother.”

Mister Farcy gave the Widow Duchess Lady Countess Jane Anne Montford Remington an iron glare. She purposefully strode out of the room. Seconds later, Victoria heard another scream as her mother hurtled past the window to the moat.

“No Victoria, you are now an orphan. You will devote your life to pleasing your husband.”

Desire pulsed through Victoria’s veins. Her bosoms heaved — yes, those bosoms were heaving! — as she gasped for breath. She was a modern, educated woman. But her true passion, the secret passion of every woman, rested in her need to meet the desires of her man. She smiled, stood and began to disrobe.

The door flew open. Caroline, dripping with brackish water, covered in blood, stood in the doorway. Dull grey skin and purple lips stood in stark contrast to jagged teeth and claw-tipped, skeletal fingers. Caroline staggered into the room, arms extended before her, moaning unintelligibly. Victoria’s mind reeled. She made out one word from Caroline’s mouth: “Brains.”

Caroline was a zombie! Mister Farcy threw himself before Victoria and backed her into a corner. Behind Caroline, her sister Alberta and the Widow Duchess Lady Countess Jane Anne Montford Remington stumbled into the room. All three repeated “Brains! Brains!” and advanced on the doomed lovers. Victoria clutched Mister Farcy’s coat and cried in terror, “Oh Mister Farcy, what shall we do?”

Mister Farcy turned to face his betrothed. She looked at his handsome countenance in confusion. He seemed somehow. . . different. His skin was pale white, pupils slit vertically like a Tiger’s. He bared teeth that had morphed into fangs. Victoria drew back in terror. Mister Farcy was a vampire!

“Bare your neck, my dear Victoria,” Mister Farcy whispered. “To save you I shall turn you into a vampire. Together we shall transform into bats and fly to Berkley, California. There we shall open a university dedicated to studying women’s issues and electing liberal presidents. Prepare for your journey to the world of the undead, my darling.”

Victoria threw her hands up to defend herself. Mister Farcy brushed aside her feeble efforts and closed in for the bite. Her zombie sisters and mother were almost on them. Victoria slapped at him, cried “You beast! Stop, I forbid you from turning me into a vampire!” But inside, her heart roiled. She detested vampires, and yet, as his fangs closed in she felt her desire grow to unimaginable proportions. The logic of her brain was swept away by the passion of her heart.

As Mister Farcy’s fangs pierced the soft flesh of her neck, Victoria had a shocking revelation: she now loved him even more.

Awesome, isn’t it? So where’s my damn publishing contract?

Okay, it’s out of my system now. No more whining. Back to the grind, onward to victory.

Thank you for letting me vent, guys.

NOTE ADDED 3/23/13

I found out today that the contest reviewers did leave me some feedback. It appears to me that one of the two judges who left reviews is not a fan of military fiction. He also had some valid criticisms. The reviews have been added to my “Novel Excerpt: First Chapter of Book 3” blog post from 3/22/13.

34 Responses to “Every Literary Agent’s Dream Novel”

  1. 1 SPEMack

    Dude, it’s brillant. I’ll print off a dozen copies so my girlfriend and sister can distribute it amongst thier sorority houses. I’m telling you man, you got have Jerry and the boys fight against zombies. But they need to be all introspective about it.

    • Mack, if I wrote a zombie story I would feel so guilty I’d have to fling myself out a castle window into a moat.

      Please let me know what the sorority girls think. They’ll probably read it, say, “Like, what- ever!” and throw it in the trash.

      Or did they only say stuff like that in the 80’s?

      • 3 SPEMack

        Eh, they sound pretty much the same from generation to generation. I will attempt to insert it into some of thier other reading literature and guage thier reactions in the wild.

        Hey, I’m glad you write military fiction, seeing as how that’s about all I read, aside from the occassional historical text or Right Wing Second American Revolution fantasy.

  2. 4 6B45N

    You sir, can write. Funny stuff!

  3. 6 Neil

    It’s great! It will sell to the domesticated and tamed masses like a bucket of severed dicks ant a feminist motorcycle rally. To further endear it to world village it does need some LBGT content to show their role in the vampire/ zombie literature world. Not being critical, just my expert and tolerant literary opinion.

    • Neil,

      I unfortunately neglected to mention that the Widow Duchess Lady Countess Jane Anne Montford Remington was a black female Puerto Rican Jewish handicapped lesbian. As soon as I add that part into the story, the money starts rolling in!

  4. Heavens! I simply must know what happens next. Will Mr. Farcy take on a young male companion with whom he will share thinly veiled erotic innuendos? Will Victoria survive when the chosen one rips from her loins?

  5. Stick with your favorite genre. You can write.

  6. Oh Lordy, Chris, I about blew coffee through my nose! What a great sense of humor! “Marketing” is a tricky thing. I think because so many are weary of war and things, well, suck, here at home, the thinking is more war stories won’t be welcomed. Perhaps reframing the focus of the marketing would help. For example the piece you did on “My life as a tyrant, the focus could be on what locals experience when Americans are around. This was just off the top of my head, not necessarily worth a thought other than to present a contextual example.
    In very blunt crude terms, the idea is to market them into reading it and your writing will do the rest. I say this out of knowledge of people, rather than the publishing industry. 🙂 So it may be worth nothing but the virtual paper it’s printed on! 😉 I can tell you that I find your work very rewarding to read!

    • Juli,

      There’s a weird dynamic going with military writers. Memoirs get a lot of interest, fiction doesn’t. Unfortunately most of the successful memoirs are about Special Operations guys, and I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. Publishers don’t seem real interested in the life of a National Guard Regular Guy.

      The idea that the public is sick of war has been talked about quite a bit, but if that was true then the memoirs wouldn’t sell.

      My gut feeling is that the literary industry isn’t interested in military fiction, and thinks the public isn’t either. I would think the phenomenal success of the book Matterhorn would have changed their minds about that, but apparently it didn’t.

      It all just comes back to sticking with it, and eventually finding the right avenue for publication. I’m very positive about eventual success, but the road there is rough.

      Thanks for the advice and kind words, always good to hear from you.

  7. 14 Glen Filthie

    No, sir.

    This is NOT whining, it is a problem with the industry and I say that as a customer. Dammitalltohell – who do I gotta kill to get a good read here?

    I simply cannot read 99% of the shite that is out there right now; most of it is published by women and effeminate liberal metrosexuals for other women and effeminate metrosexuals. I used to be a big SF fan and today I can’t stomach it – it has literally become a venue for homosexuals, socialists and militant feminists to push their ideologies and preach to their peers.

    I turned to historical fiction by writers like Conn Iggulden – but there isn’t much out there. Ditto with military fiction. Can I buy your book on Kobo, Chris? I am up in Canada and alot of us are on Kobo…and I am starving for something good to read!

    • 15 SPEMack

      I saw a factoid on another website today that stated 1 in 5 of that books purchased in the last, like eight years, were written by Stephanie Meyer of Twilight (in)fame(y).

      And my sister made fun of me for reading the “Wingman” series.

    • Glen,

      I don’t have good insight into the SF genre and how it’s changed. If anyone is using SF to push a political agenda, the way many other genres and movies seem to be about a political agenda, that just sucks. I can’t stand writers who are just preaching to the choir, which is why I was so pissed at Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.

      My book isn’t available on Kobo, but you can download a Kindle or Nook app to a laptop or smartphone for free, and read it from there. If you pick it up, I hope you enjoy it and please drop a review.

      • Glen, try Baen books, they only publish good stories, regardless of political influence.

        @ Chris, try talking to http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/

        He started out a self published author because everyone who read his stuff loved it, and all their friends loved it, and for a while between the time when his first self-publishing print ran out, and when Baen started his second printing, his books were going for 100-500 dollars on Ebay. Also he has said the same sort of things you have about how hard it is to get into the publishing/writing world when you aren’t writing a certain type of book, or if you are an outspoken conservative as he is.

        He might be able to help you out if you ask, he seems incredibly friendly through his blog as long as you’re not annoying or an idiot. He also has the same matter-of-fact writing style you do, though tweaked a little bit. Also he is an EXTREMELY good story teller, if you haven’t read Monster Hunter International, you should, it’s rare when you find a book you can finish up in 4 or 5 hours despite it being over 700 pages long. I got it Christmas night around 9ish and had it finished sometime around 2 AM. I finished the entire 4 book series within 48 hours of getting them, and all were around the same length.

        I’ll admit, I have not read your book but if your blog is anything to go by, they are probably really good. I’ll have to look them up on amazon once I find a gift card I got a while ago, if your blog is a good standard, it’ll be worth it to push back a pistol scope for a while.

        Hope it helps.

        Also I really enjoy your cop stories. I’m really glad Tam at The View From the Porch linked you a while ago, I read your entire archives that night.

        • David,

          I know a little about Larry, just from reading his thoughts on gun control. I was pleasantly surprised to see his blog post about it printed in this month’s Soldier of Fortune magazine. I haven’t read any of his books yet.

          Thanks for the info, and for the compliments about my writing.

      • 20 Lazy Bike Commuter

        Hah, I came here to suggest Baen too, but I don’t know if they do much that isn’t SciFi.

      • 21 Unistat

        I second what David W. wrote. Baen is known for publishing good stories regardless of the politics of the author. Larry Corriea actually has a recent blog post on this very subject.

      • 22 rd

        I second or third the suggestion of Baen Books. They publish Larry Corriea, David Drake, John Ringo, David Weber, Col. Kratman, Sarah Hoyt, David Flint, and Lois McMaster Bujold. They publish some good non SF also; Ringo’s Ghost/ Paladin of Shadows series, Travis Taylor’s Space Exploration, and Hank Rheinhardt’s Book of Knives.

        They do not give a hang about politics of their authors. It would be nice for them to have more authors and more genres.

  8. 23 Mike_C

    Larry Correia’s got a related (IMO) post over on his place today. I particularly enjoyed Tom Kratman’s contribution near the end.

    Whining this wasn’t. Keep writing, you have talent, and stories worth listening to.

  9. Tam kicked me over here. I owe her a thanks.
    Your good!

  10. I checked out Baen Publishing. They only do Sci-Fi and fantasy. Damn it.

  11. 29 Joshua Green

    Use the system against them. Take your military novel, and give it a fantasy dressing. Not sparkly vampires, but good old fashioned Conan-the-barbarian type stuff. Dress up the cartel as Orcs, and the Texas border between the Civilized lands and the Realm of Evil Darkness.

  12. I would seriously love to see this story pitched to a bunch of agents, just to see their reaction. 😀

    And maybe for a eency weency little bit of spite. 😉

    • Fiona,

      I’m teaching a class at a writer’s conference next month and interviewing with two agents. I think I’m just going to sit down with them and say, “I know you’re not interested in my novels.” Then I’ll tell them about this story, and they’ll probably give me a contract on the spot for 10 books over five years.

      • You know, I was going to come up with some pithy remark but all I could do was nod and think “Yeah. Yeah, they will,” while sifting through the the haunted memories of past agent critiques on my own work. :p

  13. 34 Les

    Curtis R. Rich, combat veteran and author of the excellent “Drive to Survive”, and a really great Vietnam novel, “The Advisors” tried to have published another Vietnam novel “Common Valor” sometime later. He said the publishing industry had changed and they weren’t interested unless he depicted the troops as the hordes of Genghis Khan, that is, as our current Sec of State did. He wound up going through Publish America.

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