Query Help Needed: ZOMBIE RABBIT

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chomsnumnum
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Query Help Needed: ZOMBIE RABBIT

Post by chomsnumnum » March 29th, 2010, 11:42 pm

I'm a children's writer trying to perfect my query letter for my Middle Grade novel: ZOMBIE RABBIT. I need a Simon Cowell worthy critique for my query. Thanks in advance for any feedback.

Dear Agent:

I am searching for an agent to represent my 30,000 word, Middle-Grade novel, ZOMBIE RABBIT. Your website lists a remarkable group of authors and illustrators as your clients. I would be honored if you would consider me. The following is a synopsis of my story.

Milo Thimbleberry is a rabbit bumbling down the road of life; when he’s killed by a truck. Much to his annoyance, fate gives him a second chance as one of the undead.

Life as a zombie stinks in more ways than one. Milo’s naps keep getting interrupted; he’s being stalked by maggots, burying beetles, and carrion scavengers; and his parents have booted him out of the burrow. Milo just needs to move on already.

He’s chagrined to find that to move on, he has to lead an Odyssean quest to rescue a rabbit from an animal testing lab. Not only does this sound like a lot of hard work, but it sounds dangerous as heck. Once he finally realizes that “he can’t get any deader”, he decides to take on the challenge.

Milo’s resolve strengthens with every trial the zombies overcome. By the time they reach the GOOP Lab, Milo has become a fierce leader who’s loved and respected by his followers. He goes above and beyond what’s expected of him and gets the chance to move on at last.

While the story is much closer to Oh Brother Where Art Thou, than Ulysses, Milo does make an amazing transformation over the course of the story. It has enough gross out humor to titillate any boy, but also a hero’s quest and a few damsels in distress to appeal to girls.

I am an active member of my local SCBWI.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my query.

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Re: Query Help Needed: ZOMBIE RABBIT

Post by Quill » March 29th, 2010, 11:55 pm

chomsnumnum wrote:I'm a children's writer trying to perfect my query letter for my Middle Grade novel: ZOMBIE RABBIT. I need a Simon Cowell worthy critique for my query. Thanks in advance for any feedback.
Don't know who Simon Cowell is but I'll give it a shot.
Dear Agent:

I am searching for an agent to represent my 30,000 word, Middle-Grade novel, ZOMBIE RABBIT. Your website lists a remarkable group of authors and illustrators as your clients. I would be honored if you would consider me.
Sweet.
The following is a synopsis of my story.
Omit. It's unnecessary and it's not a synopsis (in that it does not give the ending).
Milo Thimbleberry is a rabbit bumbling down the road of life; when he’s killed by a truck. Much to his annoyance, fate gives him a second chance as one of the undead.

Life as a zombie stinks in more ways than one. Milo’s naps keep getting interrupted; he’s being stalked by maggots, burying beetles, and carrion scavengers; and his parents have booted him out of the burrow. Milo just needs to move on already.

He’s chagrined to find that to move on, he has to lead an Odyssean quest to rescue a rabbit from an animal testing lab.
Good, but could probably be arranged as one paragraph.
Not only does this sound like a lot of hard work, but it sounds dangerous as heck.
Omit "hard". Avoid two "sound" in a single sentence. "As heck" a little weak. How about ending with dangerous.
Once he finally realizes that “he can’t get any deader”, he decides to take on the challenge.
Nice and hooky. Omit the quote marks.
Milo’s resolve strengthens with every trial the zombies overcome. By the time they reach the GOOP Lab, Milo has become a fierce leader who’s loved and respected by his followers.
Nice.
He goes above and beyond what’s expected of him and gets the chance to move on at last.
Omit, as being largely redundant.
While the story is much closer to Oh Brother Where Art Thou, than Ulysses
Omit comma.
, Milo does make an amazing transformation over the course of the story. It has enough gross out humor to titillate any boy,
I'd rather see "satisfy" instead of "titillate."
but also a hero’s quest and a few damsels in distress to appeal to girls.
Cool. But does this actually appeal to girls? Just asking.
I am an active member of my local SCBWI.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my query.
I like the story idea and it comes across clearly. You should do well with this.

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Re: Query Help Needed: ZOMBIE RABBIT

Post by maybegenius » March 30th, 2010, 12:48 am

chomsnumnum wrote:I'm a children's writer trying to perfect my query letter for my Middle Grade novel: ZOMBIE RABBIT. I need a Simon Cowell worthy critique for my query. Thanks in advance for any feedback.

Dear Agent:

I am searching for an agent to represent my 30,000 word, Middle-Grade novel, ZOMBIE RABBIT. Your website lists a remarkable group of authors and illustrators as your clients. I would be honored if you would consider me. The following is a synopsis of my story.

Milo Thimbleberry is a rabbit bumbling down the road of life; (You use a few semicolons in this query, but not appropriately. You don't need punctuation here at all.) when he’s killed by a truck. Much to his annoyance, fate gives him a second chance as one of the undead. (Very quirky hook, good!)

Life as a zombie stinks in more ways than one. (Clever) Milo’s naps keep getting interrupted; (change to comma) he’s being stalked by maggots, burying beetles, and carrion scavengers; (I would pick just one bug here for the sake of sentence flow, or just say "carrion scavengers." Again, comma, not semicolon.) and his parents have booted him out of the burrow. Milo just needs to move on already.

He’s chagrined to find that to move on, he has to lead an Odyssean (Hmmm, I'd be careful comparing your story to The Odyssey. Maybe say it's INSPIRED BY The Odyssey.) quest to rescue a rabbit from an animal testing lab. (Why? By "move on," do you mean pass over to the other side? You may want to clarify that). Not only does this sound like a lot of hard work, but it sounds dangerous as heck. Once he finally realizes that “he can’t get any deader”, (Watch your quote punctuation! That is a flag to publishing professionals, so make sure you get it right! Punctuation, THEN quotation mark.) he decides to take on the challenge. (What inciting event takes place that helps him realize this?)

Milo’s resolve strengthens with every trial the zombies overcome. By the time they reach the GOOP Lab, Milo has become a fierce leader who’s loved and respected by his followers. He goes above and beyond what’s expected of him and gets the chance to move on at last.

While the story is much closer to Oh Brother Where Art Thou, (remove comma) than Ulysses, Milo does make an amazing transformation over the course of the story. (Show us how he transforms, don't tell us) It has enough gross out humor to titillate any boy, but also a hero’s quest and a few damsels in distress to appeal to girls.

I am an active member of my local SCBWI.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my query.
This sounds like a very cute, quirky idea. My big concern with your query is your punctuation slip-ups. Be careful - the query is the first look an agent is going to get into your writing skill. If you make punctuation errors, it's going to hurt you. I'm also feeling iffy on your comparisons. You list a film, which a literary agent may or may not be familiar with, and you list one of the most notoriously difficult novels in the English language (unless you meant The Odyssey, not James Joyce's Ulysses?) as a comparison to a MG book. When comparing your work to others, it's usually advisable not to claim outright that it's comparable to a literary classic. You can definitely say it's BASED on a classic, but I wouldn't compare it. You automatically set yourself up for intense scrutiny when you do that.

Overall, though, the meat of the query itself is fun, and I liked it. You infused your authorial voice well. I'd tighten some of your more unwieldy sentences, cut anything repetitive, and elaborate more on the inciting events - exactly WHAT changes Milo's mind, WHAT he does to win the confidence of the others, HOW he grows, etc. And make sure you double and triple-check that punctuation! Best of luck to you :)
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Re: Query Help Needed: ZOMBIE RABBIT

Post by Poisonguy » March 30th, 2010, 4:50 am

Hi chomsnumnum. I think this needs more work. You've got a good skeleton, but you need to give it some meat. I'll try to fatten it up a bit. My critiquing tone sometimes comes across as authoritarian, so keep in mind that I'm just an unpublished guy trying to give you constructive input. Don't read into the way I say things. Take what works for you, discard the garbage. Good luck with this. It sounds like an interesting story.
Dear Agent:

Zombie Rabbit is a 30,000 word Middle-Grade novela (it's not long enough to be a novel) with illustrations. I'm assuming there are illustrations because of the reference to illustrators the agent represents. The stuff I cut out, I believe, adds nothing. Use your word count on your story, not someone else's.

Milo Thimbleberry is a rabbit bumbling down the road of life when he’s run over by a truck. Much to his annoyance, fate gives him a second chance as one of the undead.

Life as a zombie stinks in more ways than one. Milo’s naps keep getting interrupted. Maggots, burying beetles, and carrion scavengers stalk him. And his parents boot him out of the burrow. Milo just needs to move on already. I don't believe semi-colons are incorrect, they just seem like bad form in a query. That's why I removed them. I've also converted a sentence to active form.

He’s chagrined to find that to move on, he has to lead an Odyssean quest to rescue a rabbit from an animal testing lab. You need context here, IMO. Suggest: When Milo runs into Squinty Squirrel, the resident bully, he's given the choice of leading an Odyssean quest to rescue a rabbit from animal testing or getting sauteed in port wine. Of course I'm making this up, but I think you need to establish context and that means providing the conflict Milo faces--the choices he has at this point. Your call. Not only does this sound like a lot of hard work, but it sounds dangerous as well. Once he finallyrealizes he can’t get any deader, it's off to Troy he goes. Or wherever that testing laboratory is. If you go for something like that, replace my text with what works for your story.

Milo’s resolve strengthens with every trial the zombies overcome. What resolve? That's why it's important to present the conflict above. Without context, without the choices Milo is given, we don't get what odds he's up against. Set those up above. Let the agent know what happens to Milo if he doesn't go on this Odyssean quest and succeed. Also, since you have room to add word count, maybe mention some of the "people" he leads in the quest. By the time they reach the GOOP Lab, Milo has become a fierce leader This is telling. Throw in a couple of obstacles he's overcome. I.e. By the time they reach their destination, Milo has already thwarted Cunning Fox's attempt to lure them into his den and Hooty Owl's aerial assaults. In doing so, he gains the respect of his followers. He goes above and beyond what’s expected of him and gets the chance to move on at last. However, his toughest challenge lays ahead. GOOP Lab. How the heck will he break in? And then escape? Everyone's undead lives are in Milo's hands. Something like that but better. I did this quickly and it doesn't flow well. Make it story specific. Basically, I think you need more showing, less telling.

While the story is much closer to Oh Brother Where Art Thou, than Ulysses, Milo does make an amazing transformation over the course of the story. It has enough gross out humor to titillate any boy, but also a hero’s quest and a few damsels in distress to appeal to girls. This is telling. Show this in your query.

I am an active member of my local SCBWI. I have no idea what this acronym is, but if it's a respectable writing association, I guess it's okay to leave in (it probably has no influence on the agent's decision, though, so it's probably best that you use the word count in the body of the query instead.

Thank you for considering my query.

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Re: Query Help Needed: ZOMBIE RABBIT

Post by Bron » March 30th, 2010, 8:48 am

I'm certainly no expert, but after reading lots of agent blogs hopefully I've picked up some tips I can pass on. If I were an agent I'd request pages based on the title alone, but anyway :-)
chomsnumnum wrote:
Dear Agent:

I am searching for an agent This is redundant. You wouldn't be querying otherwise. to represent my 30,000 word, Middle-Grade novel manuscript? I think a novella, as someone else suggested using, actually denotes a short adult book, but I don't think novel is correct either because of the lenght, ZOMBIE RABBIT. This is an awesome title. Your website lists a remarkable group of authors and illustrators as your clients. This sound generic, like it could be addressed to any agent. I'm hoping you'll be a bit more specific when you actually send to agents. I would be honored if you would consider me. The following is a synopsis of my story.This sentence is redundant also.

Milo Thimbleberry is a rabbit bumbling down the road of life You don't need a semi-colon here. Maybegenius is right, you need to be careful in your use of punctuation. Grab a grammar guide and read up on semi-colons. until he’s killed by a truck. Much to his annoyance this is good, fate gives him a second chance as one of the undead.

Life as a zombie stinks in more ways than one. Milo’s naps keep getting interrupted: he’s being stalked by maggots, burying beetles, and carrion scavengers and his parents have booted him out of the burrow. Milo just needs to move on already. When you said 'move on' here, I thought you meant it literally as he'd been kicked out of the burrow. Your next sentence suggests otherwise. Perhaps clarify a bit at this point?

He’s chagrined to find that to move on, he has to lead an Odyssean quest to rescue a rabbit from an animal testing lab. Not only does this sound like a lot of hard work, but it sounds dangerous as heck. Once he finally realizes that “he can’t get any deader”,brilliant he decides to take on the challenge.

Milo’s resolve strengthens with every trial the zombies overcome. By the time they reach the GOOP Lab, Milo has become a fierce leader who’s loved and respected by his followers. He goes above and beyond what’s expected of him and gets the chance to move on at last.

While the story is much closer to Oh Brother Where Art Thou, than Ulysses, Milo does make an amazing transformation over the course of the story. It has enough gross out humor to titillate any boy, but also a hero’s quest and a few damsels in distress to appeal to girls. These last two paragraphs are telling about the story, not showing. Every agent I've read who has commented on queries has said they don't like to be told what your story is about, they like to be shown. I think you have a great hook and your description of the story is entertaining so I'd cut these last two paragraphs. The rest is good.

I am an active member of my local SCBWI.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my query.

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Re: Query Help Needed: ZOMBIE RABBIT

Post by maybegenius » March 30th, 2010, 10:30 am

A note on the term to use - I'd go with manuscript, as well. This isn't a novella, because it's an appropriate length for an MG book. The term "novel" lends itself more to works of 50K+ words, though. I don't think it would be a big sticking point, but if you'd like to change it, go with manuscript.
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Re: Query Help Needed: ZOMBIE RABBIT

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » March 30th, 2010, 10:34 am

It's still a novel. It's just (appropriately) short. "Middle-grade novel" would be clear to any agent, I'm sure.
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Re: Query Help Needed: ZOMBIE RABBIT

Post by theWallflower » March 30th, 2010, 10:47 am

You want Simon Cowell. You got mother f'n Simon Cowell.
I am searching for an agent to represent my 30,000 word, Middle-Grade novel, ZOMBIE RABBIT. Your website lists a remarkable group of authors and illustrators as your clients. I would be honored if you would consider me. The following is a synopsis of my story.
-This paragraph needs to be killed, or at least moved. It's obvious you're searching for an agent, otherwise you wouldn't have emailed the guy. A "remarkable list of authors and illustrators" means nothing because usually you're querying a member of a literary house, and not all of those remarkable authors are represented by the guy you're asking for. And it's obvious that your synopsis follows, because that's a standard part of a query, and if it's absent, you're 99% likely to get rejected outright. The only important things here are the title, word count, and genre. Move that bit to after the synopsis.
Milo Thimbleberry is a rabbit bumbling down the road of life; when he's killed by a truck. Much to his annoyance, fate gives him a second chance as one of the undead.
-Did he get run over? Or did the truck stab him in a back alley?
-When you say bumbling, I don't get a good sense of what kind of character Milo is.
-Why is he annoyed that fate has given him a second chance? Some would see that as a great opportunity. Is afterlife that good?
Life as a zombie stinks in more ways than one. Milo's naps keep getting interrupted; he's being stalked by maggots, burying beetles, and carrion scavengers; and his parents have booted him out of the burrow. Milo just needs to move on already.
-Do you mean burrowing beetles?
-Carrion scavengers is redundant.
-Who made him a zombie? Why is he a zombie? What consequences does he have now that he's a zombie? What does he want to do now that he's a zombie? By this point in the query, I should know what problem Milo faces, or what he wants out of life.
He's chagrined to find that to move on, he has to lead an Odyssean quest to rescue a rabbit from an animal testing lab. Not only does this sound like a lot of hard work, but it sounds dangerous as heck. Once he finally realizes that "he can't get any deader", he decides to take on the challenge.
-This is a big jump from lazing in a rabbit hole to leading an Odyssean quest. How did Milo get the knowledge that he has to infiltrate an animal testing lab?
-And your query doesn't seem like there's anything Odyssean about this story.
-"dangerous as heck" is cliché
-I don't really care about the motivating factor. You should just be able to tell "what happened" in a cause and effect type manner. Character did this. It led to this result, which led to character X doing this and so on.
Milo's resolve strengthens with every trial the zombies overcome. By the time they reach the GOOP Lab, Milo has become a fierce leader who's loved and respected by his followers. He goes above and beyond what's expected of him and gets the chance to move on at last.
-First sentence is telling
-Zombies? There's more than one? Where did they come from? How many zombie rabbits are there?
-I like the lab name, but I think you should spell out the acronym for humor's sake.
-So far the zombie-ness of your rabbits is lacking. They just seem resuscitated or resurrected, not zombie-fied. They don't eat brains, they're not automatons, and they aren't attacking en masse. You want to read a good supernatural bunny story, read Bunnicula.
While the story is much closer to Oh Brother Where Art Thou, than Ulysses, Milo does make an amazing transformation over the course of the story. It has enough gross out humor to titillate any boy, but also a hero's quest and a few damsels in distress to appeal to girls.
-I don't get your comparison. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (get the title right and punctuated with italics) is loosely based on the events of Homer's Odyssey. Ulysses is the name of the hero in The Odyssey, which is a latinized version of Odysseus. And people might think you're talking about James Joyce's Ulysses.
-I'm no expert in how to form queries for middle-grade stories, but my sources tell me not to compare the story to other stories. Your plot synopsis should be able to stand on its own.
-Titillate? Do you want to look up the meaning of that word maybe? At least its current connotation in modern usage.
-It's presumptuous to assume that girls like hero's quests and damsels in distress. It indicates that you have not observed what kind of middle-grade books are being market towards young females this day (and they're not all about vampires). Female stories are more about passion and day-to-day living than quests.
-Others have mentioned before, but I'll reiterate. This paragraph is all telling.
I am an active member of my local SCBWI.
-I don't know what that means. And it doesn't sound relevant to your writing credentials.
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Re: Query Help Needed: ZOMBIE RABBIT

Post by brandi_fey » March 30th, 2010, 4:22 pm

Everyone has given such excellent advice on this query, that I'll just chime in and agree.

One thing that I will mention is that, to me, this was an enticing read. I wanted to pick up the story and read it, so I think you've got the gist of a query. All you need now is the polish. Best of luck and happy writing!

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Re: Query Help Needed: ZOMBIE RABBIT

Post by chomsnumnum » March 30th, 2010, 8:07 pm

Thank you everyone for your excellent comments. I've got so much to go over. I'm glad LOST isn't on right now so I can get right to work.

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Re: Query Help Needed: ZOMBIE RABBIT *Revision

Post by chomsnumnum » March 30th, 2010, 11:57 pm

I tried to take everyone's excellent suggestions and put them into action. I left out everything that would be customized for a particular agent, and also anything that relates specifically to queries for children's agents. Here's the core of my query. Thanks again to everyone for your help.

Milo Thimbleberry is a rabbit bumbling down the road of life when he’s run over by a truck. Most rabbits move on to the Misty Meadow when they die, but Milo is still in the forest where he grew up. He realizes that he’s been turned into a zombie and that death stinks in more ways than one. His can’t get a nap in, scavengers won’t leave him alone, and his parents have booted him out of the burrow.

He wants to move on to the Misty Meadow, but he didn’t live up to his potential while he was alive. Grandmother Oaketower, the guardian of the forest gives him a second chance, but he’ll have to lead a hero’s quest if he wants to see the afterlife. Milo’s friend Red points out that he can’t get any deader, so he decides to take on the challenge.

Milo shepherds a group of zombies on a journey inspired by the Odyssey (with woodland animals.) They have to out riddle the vulpine Circe, escape the vulturine Scylla, and avoid the voluptuous Sirens.

Milo and his followers overcome every challenge that’s thrown at them and one by one ear the chance to move on.

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Re: Query Help Needed: ZOMBIE RABBIT

Post by Poisonguy » March 31st, 2010, 7:59 am

This is so much better. I think you're at the point of fine-tuning now. Great job. This really sounds like a story I'd like to read or read to my girls. Good luck with it.


Milo Thimbleberry is a rabbit bumbling down the road of life when he’s run over by a truck. Most rabbits move on to the Misty Meadow when they die, but not Milo. When he comes to, he's still in the forest where he grew up. He realizes thatBut he’s been turned into a zombie and that, man, death stinks. His can’t get a nap in, scavengers won’t leave him alone, and his parents have booted him out of the burrow. His naps keep getting interrupted, he’s being stalked by maggots and scavenger beetles, and his parents boot him out of the burrow. I like the original construction better (plus a small edit).

He desperately wants to move on to the peacefulness of Misty Meadow, but he didn’t live up to his potential while he was alive. Not sure you need this, but see what others say. Grandmother Oaketower, the guardian of the forest, gives him a second chance, but he’ll have to lead a hero’s quest if he wants to see the afterlife. Milo’s friend Red points out that he can’t get any deader, so he decides to take on the challenge. Good. I liked what you've done here. Maybe let us in on who Red is, thought. Is he a zombie friend or his best friend in life? Something to give context to who Red is, other than just a name.

Milo shepherds a group of zombies on a journey inspired by the Odyssey (with woodland animals) on a journey to rescue a rabbit from an animal testing lab. I love the animal testing lab angle and feel this is more germane (and quirky) than a comparison/inspirational link to the Odyssey. Or consider what I have put in the overall version at the bottom. I hope others feel that way, because the rescue of a rabbit in a animal testing facility will likely be endearing to any agent. They have to out riddle (hyphenate, maybe?) the vulpine Circe, escape the vulturine Scylla, and avoid the voluptuous Sirens. This reads like a grocery list. Expand on this just a tad. For example: Along the way, they have to out-riddle the vulpine Circe in order to avoid being turned into humans, escape being eaten by vulturine Scylla as they emerge from the Whirlpool Straits, and avoid being lured into the voluptuous Sirens' trap. Be just a bit more specific and that'll set up some tension.

Milo and his followers overcome every challenge that’s thrown at them and one by one ear the chance to move on. Since this is the last story-related pitch, I'd keep it for Milo. Suggest: With each challenge he overcomes, Milo is one step closer to reaching Misty Meadow.

So, overall, my version--with non-story specific stuff, is this:

Milo Thimbleberry is a rabbit bumbling down the road of life when he’s run over by a truck. Most rabbits move on to the Misty Meadow when they die, but not Milo. When he comes to, he's still in the forest where he grew up. But he’s been turned into a zombie and, man, death stinks. His naps keep getting interrupted, he’s being stalked by maggots and scavenger beetles, and his parents boot him out of the burrow.

He desperately wants to move on to the peacefulness of Misty Meadow. Grandmother Oaketower, the guardian of the forest, gives him a second chance, but he’ll have to lead a hero’s quest if he wants to see the afterlife. Milo’s zombie friend Red points out that he can’t get any deader, so he decides to take on the challenge.

Milo shepherds a group of zombies on a journey inspired by the Odyssey (but for woodland animals) to rescue a rabbit from an animal testing laboratory. Along the way, they have to out-riddle the vulpine Circe in order to avoid being turned into humans, escape being eaten by vulturine Scylla as they emerge from the Whirlpool Straits, and avoid being lured into the voluptuous Sirens' trap.

With each challenge he overcomes, Milo is one step closer to reaching Misty Meadow.

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Re: Query Help Needed: ZOMBIE RABBIT

Post by chomsnumnum » March 31st, 2010, 9:41 pm

Poisonguy-

This is so great. Thank you so much for the awesome suggestions. Now I just have to get my MS in great shape and I can get back to querying.

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Re: Query Help Needed: ZOMBIE RABBIT

Post by kenpochick » April 1st, 2010, 9:56 am

I like poisonguy's suggestions but I have one more. You don't need the "(but for woodland animals)" part. It's clear from the query that we're dealing with animals.

Good luck, it sounds really cute.

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