Sunday, January 18, 2009


Dear Query Shark,

I’m seeking representation for The Last Baby Boomer, my completed 67,165-word work of literary fiction.

It is the year 2076 and twelve-year-old Emily Pennington is saying earnest prayers that Martin J. McCrae, 117, will promptly suffer a catastrophic heart attack. She’s not the only one. So are more than two billion otherwise law-abiding souls scattered around the solar system. McCrae is the last baby boomer and his death is going to enrich some stranger by $980 million.

Just one problem: McCrae won’t die. After government demographers identified him as the last baby boomer, the lonely pigeon feeder gleefully agreed to become the central figure in a lottery ghoul pool. Contestants pay $25 to be in a museum suite with the chatty fibber for 15 minutes. If they’re present when he dies, they win a jackpot bloated by off-site gamblers who wager millions on the widespread conviction that he could go at any minute. He revels in the boredom-slaying opportunities to tell historic lies and surprise all the ladies with lascivious squeezes skillfully timed to coincide with the instant the souvenir pictures are snapped.

McCrae’s rollicking youth and the lively friendships are woven throughout the book. In 2080, the one-time couch potato lapses into a persistent vegetative state. Court-sanctioned contest rules forbid any treatments. Conspiracy theorists surmise he’s already dead and the government’s using the death pool as a macabre bailout program. As the death obsession dissolves into a moral quagmire with no equitable end in sight, the lines waiting to play grow longer and longer. Because, geez, doesn’t everybody have to die someday?

McCrae revives after two old friends, truly “eternal optimists,” appear and claim to have discovered a life-extending elixir. McCrae must decide to drink the heady potion or allow his life and the nearly billion-dollar jackpot to end naturally.

I'm a Pittsburgh freelancer whose humor features appear in Esquire, Men's Health, Sports Illustrated and other top publications. I would be happy to send you the full or partial manuscript for The Last Baby Boomer, a coming of old, old age story. Because everyone has to die, but only one of us gets to die last.

Thank you for your consideration and have a great day.


Holy moly, are you sure you wrote that original query. This is so much better I'd actually ask for pages.


Dear Query Shark:

The Last Baby Boomer will celebrate his 44th birthday on December 19. He will die -- mark your calendars -- on September 25, 2081. The gala parades down Broadway will begin the next day.

“The Last Baby Boomer” is my 209-page novel about the life and death of the last baby boomer, Martin J. McCrae. Because his impending death will symbolically tombstone a generation known for selfish excess, the 117-year-old McCrae agrees to be part of a lottery ghoul pool.
Contestants pay $25 to be in a museum suite with him for 15 minutes. If they are present when he expires, they win the multimillion dollar jackpot. One problem: McCrae won't die.

Word count, not page numbers. Always.

Tombstone is not a verb. Not now, not in the future, not ever.

You've described the gimmick, but not the novel. Who's the main character? McCrae? The gamblers? Someone else?

If the novel is simply waiting for him to die, you'll need something else to hold our interest.

I’m a (redacted)-based freelance writer whose humor features appear in dozens of top publications including Men’s Health, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Playboy, Golf, Cooking Light and Travel + Leisure Golf.

Please let me know if you’d like to see more of “The Last Baby Boomer,” a coming of old, old, age story. Because we all have to die, but only one of us gets to die last.


There's not enough here yet to entice me. I'd probably read the pages if they were attached, but you'll be much better off if we get more sense of what the story, not just the set up, is.


Margaret Yang said...

Your premise is good, and your writing shows flair. Please, please try again! I'd love to see a new version of this.

Lehcarjt said...

I know this is a pet-peeve for a lot of people, but I actually like 'symbolically tombstone.'

Sheila JG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JS said...

"This year" is now out of date--presumably (given all the rest of the math) Martin J. McCrae was born in 1964, not 1965.

(And you know, there is a lot of disagreement about exactly when the baby boom ended: as someone who was herself born in late 1964, I can tell you that I was definitely part of a baby bust in my town and state--our elementary school went from 60 kids per grade in the years ahead of me to about 45 kids per grade in my year and after.)

Brigid said...

I'm rather intrigued. How does McCrae not die?

Anonymous said...

What's to stop someone from rigging the contest and holding a pillow over Martin`s face or something less obvious.
Then you have a neat conflict.

"Would you like an almond flavoured mint, Mr. MrCrea?"

Also... 15 minutes seems too short a time. All that in and out during the night would make Mr. MrCrea crabby. Why physically show up - why not just buy an increment of time and win that way?

Unless McCrea is feeding off these people's life force and that's why he won't die.

And if he won't die...
then never trust anyone over age 130, I guess.

I like the idea, but JR's right. There's something else needed to reel a reader in.

none said...

Given that Boomers buy a lot more books than later generations, you may be shooting yourself in the foot here....

Mimzy said...

I could see this being an interesting book, but I probably wouldn't pick it up. Not unless it got rave reviews but even then I may skip over it. (Yes I am one of those heartless people who didn't like 'The Five People You Meet in Heaven')

I'd be most interested in how your character continues to ward off death. Is this whole thing really a scam and your character isn't as old as he claims? Is it rigged so he'll only die when a predetermined person walks into the room? Why are these people watching him die again anyway? I know it's the future, but chances are that if McCrae has lived to be 117, there are still plenty of people around for which the baby boomers are considered to be their parents or grandparents. I for one, would not want to sit around and watch somebody's grandmother die even if there was the chance of getting money out of it.

Clare K. R. Miller said...

I guess by "this year" you mean "the year in which I write this query"? Why is that even relevant? I guess it's sort of making it timely and therefore theoretically interesting, but then you jump forward 73 years. That makes the story... oh, right, not timely. Not that there's anything wrong with science fiction, but the actual novel has nothing to do with 2008.

I also feel like I'm missing something: how do they know when he's going to die, or more to the point, why do they think they know when he's going to die? It seems totally arbitrary to say he'll die on that date.

Amanda C. Davis said...

I don't know, I like "to tombstone" as a verb.

Rick Daley said...

I agree with the anti-tombstone crowd. I would prefer something along the lines of "his death would write the epitaph for his generation..."

The premise has potential, but the query raises more questions than it answers. My biggest: how do they know he will die on 9/25/2081? Is there a future descendant of Dr. Kevorkian that will help usher him out?

Also: when you buy your lottery ticket, do you choose your 15 minutes, or is the period randomly assigned? Can you buy more than 1 ticket?

There are ninety-six 15-minute periods in a day - assuming they don't overlap, of course. At $25 a ticket, an $2,400 investment would cover you for the whole day.

Is there a special kicker option to bet that he won't die on any given day? This could be fun, especially if a faction existed that was trying to usher in the end and an rival faction trying to postpone it.

NOTE: my authentication word to post this comment is abargan, which is fitting because the honorable Ms. Shark's free advice truly is a bargain...

About Me said...

I like the overall idea of the query. I feel we do need to know a bit about the characters however. Who are they? Make the readers care about the characters.

Best of luck.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with those who like "to tombstone" as a verb. I recall reading somewhere that Shakespear use language in a non-convential way and has enriched our world because of it. Note, I am not suggesting this writing is Shakespear.

Anonymous said...

I got past 'tombstone' because this intrigued me.

Hope you'll try again!

none said...

The tombstone thing confused me because over here "tombstoning" means jumping into the sea from rocks or piers, and risking paralysis or even death.

Lynne Sears Williams said...

I liked #93's idea! I want to fix all the words that are not spelled correctly. I want a new puppy. I want a new planet. I want to drop-kick something, as soon as I learn what 'drop-kicking' is. I want the word at the bottom of this post to be 'instead' but it is 'ingstead.' Perhaps it's a message from The MotherShip. Wearing my Tinfoil Hat, I head for the Egress.

none said...

Nah, the MotherShip is talking to me right now.

(word ver: cophi (what coffee will be called in 100 years))

Lynne Sears Williams said...

No, BuffySquirrel,that message is scrambled. Renonme: pronounced correctly it is Our Word for "enemy."
Be very, very, careful.

Anonymous said...

I like tombstone as a verb, Shark. So there. The imagery worked for me.

Anonymous said...

Double holy molies!!

Joshua McCune said...

Nicely done!

Margaret Yang said...

Annnnd, we have a winner! Nicely done!

Anonymous said...

This is one of the most interesting premises I've ever come across. My only issue is why not drink the life-extending elixir? If the elixir keeps you alive for, let's say, twenty extra years, maybe in that twenty years they might develop a fountain-of-youth potion. Twenty-one, here I come again.