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A GIRL A UNICORN AND A MADWOMAN (YA/Fantasy)


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#1 Gareth

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Posted 28 June 2011 - 11:07 AM

Hi All

Been struggling with this for ages, tried to keep it to the AQC format, Hook, mini-synopsis, mini bio, but this a query for a finished and polished novel.


Dear (perfect and completely suitable agent chosen after painstaking research and careful reading of blogs and stuff)

Brandsford Opening Lines here in order to politely but without overt emphasis demonstrate above said painstaking research.

Jas and her unicorn, chased across the hostage world of Lacuna unaware she is carrying the one weapon the usurpers of Hook City dread more than death itself, the label in her genes.

Her brother missing, her mother dead, Jas has good reason to fear the Followers of Reeve. Locked away for the too-many-eth time, she escapes cult, family and arranged marriage. In that moment of choice a mysterious golden unicorn becomes her guide. They ride through the forest together, horses materialising around them as the unicorn gathers the all-herd from the four corners of planet Lacuna. Jas becomes swept up in their breathless, driven, surge, embracing this wild future. Still pursued by her family, she reaches the force-walls of the imprisoned city of Hook. Jas alone can enter the city dome and a new voice in her head whispers of the threat she poses to the owners of Lacuna, of sins committed on the stolen world; of the thousands unjustly imprisoned under the dome-sky; and finally, what really happened to her brother. Jas vows those sinners of Lacuna are about to discover the rage of the frail can threaten even the mightiest.

A GIRL A UNICORN AND A MADWOMAN, 70,000 words, complete, YA/fantasy

Gareth Owens is an active member of SFWA, having publications in (amongst others) - Nature - Nature Physics - Odyssey Adventures in Science Magazine
Owens' collection of stories entitled “Fun with Rainbows” launched the Immersion Press imprint.


His novella “The Cloth from which she is Cut” from Fun with Rainbows was nominated in 2011 for a BSFA award, (The book going on to be short listed for best artwork). Fun with Rainbows also made the SFcrowsnest Hyper Hundred as one of the 100 best books published in 2010 (Number 59)

He also has the first story in the upcoming 'The Immersion Book of Steam Punk'

Thanks in advance for taking the time to read

Best regards

Alright enough prevaricating

#2 JNKhoury

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Posted 28 June 2011 - 11:52 AM

Hi, Gareth.

Okay. You're query just made my head hurt. I'm so confused. What is going on in this story? First of all, your hook isn't a complete sentence, so you might want to take a look at that.

I have dozens of questions about what you're trying to say here, but I'll stick with the most important: Who is the bad guy(s) in this book? The usurpers of the Hook City? The "Followers of Reeve"? The family (wait, I thought they were dead or missing...?) What is a "label in her genes"? All that comes to my mind is the annoying cloth tab in the back of my Levi's. What is the purpose of the unicorns and the horses, and what is the "future" she has with them? Because it seems like all they're really doing is running around in dramatic, wind-sweeping-their-manes but somewhat pointless manner. What are the sins, and who are the sinners? And what is their connection to Jas that makes her want to go all Kill Bill on them?

You need to really focus on simplifying this a lot. Start with the bare, dry bones of your story (who is the MC, what does she want, what stands in her way) and build up from there. Keep it simple! Right now I don't feel any kind of reason to care about Jas as an MC. Especially since all she seems to be doing in this book is racing around aimlessly on horseback, before suddenly deciding to wreak havoc on a nebulous, undefined enemy.

And who is the madwoman you speak of in the title? I never saw her anywhere in the query. Unless it's Jas herself, which now that I think about it, might be the case... She does hear a voice in her head. Is she schizo? :huh:

As for the publishing credits and all... did you yourself write this book or are you querying for someone else? If the former, then don't talk about yourself in the third person. If the latter... I'd just rather assume it's not the latter.

Your book sounds fabulously unique and exciting, with a cool blend of elements not usually found together. But right now, all I get from this query is a vague sense of danger and a lot of horses. What I'm not seeing is how these things go together in any kind of concrete, understandable way.

Hope this wasn't too harsh for you. :sad: I'm don't tend to go easy on anyone on here, least of all myself. Mostly because I hate to think of all the great books that never get published all because of queries that don't do them justice. We all owe it to our manuscripts to work as hard on our query as on our books. Anyway, enough rambling from me.

Please take this with a goodly dose of salt.

Happy writing! :biggrin:
Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. --e. l. doctorow

#3 Jshaw

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Posted 28 June 2011 - 12:22 PM

Hi All

Been struggling with this for ages, tried to keep it to the AQC format, Hook, mini-synopsis, mini bio, but this a query for a finished and polished novel.


Dear (perfect and completely suitable agent chosen after painstaking research and careful reading of blogs and stuff)

Brandsford Opening Lines here in order to politely but without overt emphasis demonstrate above said painstaking research.

Jas and her unicorn, chased across the hostage world of Lacuna unaware she is carrying the one weapon the usurpers of Hook City dread more than death itself, the label in her genes. This hook doesn't flow well and is confusing.

Her brother missing, her mother dead, Jas has good reason to fear the Followers of Reeve. Locked away for the too-many-eth time (awkward), she escapes a? cult, her? family and an? arranged marriage. In that moment of choice (what moment of choice? I don't know what you're referring to here) a mysterious golden unicorn becomes her guide (how? where does the unicorn come come from? why does the unicorn want to be her guide? There has to be a reason or everyone would have a unicorn guide). They ride through the forest together (this is picky, but Jas is riding the unicorn, they're not riding together), horses materialising around them as the unicorn gathers the all-herd (should this be capitalized?) from the four corners of planet Lacuna (So the horses just find them because they're running through the forest? There has to be a reason. Has the unicorn called them? Can the horses sense they're needed?). Jas becomes swept up in their breathless, driven, surge, embracing this wild future (this is very vague and doesn't really tell me anything). Still (I didn't know until now that her family was pursuing her, so you need to incorporate that earlier or remove the 'still') pursued by her family (why does her family want her back? And WHO in her family is pursing her? You mention that her brother is missing and her mother's dead), she reaches the force-walls of the imprisoned city of Hook. Jas alone can enter the city dome (why her and nobody else?) and a new voice in her head whispers (so she's had other voices whisper in her head?) of the threat she poses to the owners of Lacuna, of sins committed on the stolen world; of the thousands unjustly imprisoned under the dome-sky; and finally, what really happened to her brother (you've lost me here, sorry. There's way too much in this sentence and it's all telling, not showing). Jas vows those sinners of Lacuna (I thought the problem was with the imprisoned city of Hook, although I don't know who imprisoned the city and why) are about to discover the rage of the frail can threaten even the mightiest.

A GIRL A UNICORN AND A MADWOMAN, is a YA fantasy, complete at 70,000 words, complete, YA/fantasy

Gareth Owens is an active member of SFWA, having publications in (amongst others) - Nature - Nature Physics - Odyssey Adventures in Science Magazine
Owens' collection of stories entitled “Fun with Rainbows” launched the Immersion Press imprint.


His novella “The Cloth from which she is Cut” from Fun with Rainbows was nominated in 2011 for a BSFA award, (The book going on to be short listed for best artwork). Fun with Rainbows also made the SFcrowsnest Hyper Hundred as one of the 100 best books published in 2010 (Number 59)

He also has the first story in the upcoming 'The Immersion Book of Steam Punk'

Thanks in advance for taking the time to read

Best regards

Alright enough prevaricating


Hey Gareth,

I too, regrettably, am left with many questions after reading your query. I've outlined my thoughts above. I also agree with JNKhoury's points regarding your publication credits. They take up a lot of space in your query, so you might want to consider the most relevant one for the MS you're submitting. I'd also suggest reading your query out loud to help point out parts that don't flow smoothly. As usual, take what you like and leave what you don't! :biggrin:

#4 Gareth

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Posted 28 June 2011 - 12:53 PM

you're all good. I don't feel shouted at, which is nice.

And thanks for taking the time to read and type a fair chunk

This is exactly what I needed, the requirement to explain, and therefor more correctly prioritize elements of plot importance.

What Jas wants starts sort of simple. She wants not to be locked up in a woodshed, with a more long term goal of not being given in arranged marriage to an inbred cousin with sticky out ears. Finally developing into a very strong desire not to be shot at.

Discovering who the bad guys are is actually part of the development of the book, however, Jas's problems start with her violent family but as she runs further from her mountain top and as her horizons broaden, the real bad guys become more apparent. A planet controlling cartel have illegitimately got hold of a lost colony world and have turned it over to full scale production of anything they can make a profit on, weapons, clones, drugs.

But Jas carries in her conserved junk sequences the contractual DNA of the legitimate governor of the planet and thus poses the ultimate threat to the usurper, the eponymous mad woman.

As for the sins, they are an integral part of the plot, and I spent some time thinking up new ones,

Jas is not Schizo, the voice in her head is the Large Core (LC - Elsy) of the main city, a recorded personality that needed to be isolated from the rest of the world for the hijacking of planet Lacuna to take place. Elsy was Jas's Grandmother's best friend and has been kept in isolation for the nearly two centuries.

The author bio is a result of my own confusion and misunderstanding of stuff I read off the internet (always an embarrassment, still can't be helped)

point seven
http://www.ehow.com/...author-bio.html

however should be an easy fix.

Always an uncomfortable thing, talking about self, as a kitchen-at-parties sort of guy.

Thanks for giving me a square one to go back to

#5 TansyRagwort

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Posted 28 June 2011 - 01:03 PM

What Jas wants starts sort of simple. She wants not to be locked up in a woodshed, with a more long term goal of not being given in arranged marriage to an inbred cousin with sticky out ears. Finally developing into a very strong desire not to be shot at.

This is your hook. Tighten it up and yeah. That's where I'd start.

http://www.immortali...ify.php?book=25

http://www.immortali...books.php?id=25

 

THE IMPENDING DEMISE OF THE GIRL WITH BROWN EYES coming Dec 2013 from Immortal Ink Publishing.


#6 Gareth

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Posted 28 June 2011 - 01:12 PM

Thanks Jshaw and Tansy

I knew I wasn't happy with it, but sometimes you don't know which tooth is aching

#7 JNKhoury

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Posted 28 June 2011 - 01:14 PM

Wow. Everything you just said about your book in your last post is what needs to go in the query. I understood it a LOT better, and your voice sounded so much more natural! Take what you just wrote and polish it up.

That's your query. Or at least, a HUGE step in the right direction.
:biggrin:
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#8 Gareth

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 05:26 AM

Right...Thanks to everyone for their suggestions, this is what I made of it. (I'm coming to the conclusion that this query thing should be done before the book is written, because the understanding of a story and what is important about it is utterly different once you've read it)


What Jas wanted started sort of simple, not to be locked up in the woodshed, with a more long-term goal of avoiding arranged marriage to her addled cousin, but now all she really, really, wants is not to be shot at.

When Jas befriends a genetically engineered unicorn she runs from the mountaintop of the mad believers chased by her starbilly family across Lacuna, the only planet she knows. Yet, as she gets further from home and her horizons broaden out, she finds she's the granddaughter of the legitimate governor. Lacuna has been taken over by a multiplanetary crime cartel and Jas carries the contractual DNA that could end their rule. All she has to do is cross the burning prairies. penetrate the giant security dome surrounding the city of Hook and present her DNA to Elsy, the grumpy supercomputer, Simple! Except she's still pursued by her murderous family; the planet-jackers all have guns not to mention a powerful desire to use them; and nobody's heard a word from Elsy in two-hundred years. Just as well the unicorn seems to have a plan.

I'm an active member of SFWA with publications in, amongst others, Nature, Nature Physics, Odyssey Adventures in Science.

My collection Fun with Rainbows launched the Immersion Press imprint (BSFA award 2010 finalist for best artwork) with the story The Cloth from which she is Cut also being nominated.
The collection made it into the SFcrowsnest 'The Hyper Hundred' best books of 2010.
Upcoming work, I have the first story in the Immersion Book of Steampunk due out later in 2011.

Thanks for taking the time to read this

#9 Jshaw

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 06:11 AM

Right...Thanks to everyone for their suggestions, this is what I made of it. (I'm coming to the conclusion that this query thing should be done before the book is written, because the understanding of a story and what is important about it is utterly different once you've read it)


What Jas wanted wants (present tense) started sort of is simple, not to be being locked up in the woodshed, with a more long-term goal of avoiding an arranged marriage to her addled (I preferred your description of 'sticky-out ears') cousin and most importantly, avoiding getting shot. but now all what she really, really, wants is not to be shot at.
I just rearranged things here to try and make your hook a little shorter. The content is great! My suggestions, as always, are food for thought.

When Jas befriends a genetically engineered unicorn she runs (maybe something stronger here? Escapes?) from the mountaintop of the mad believers (is this actually what the mountaintop is called? If so, maybe this should be capitalized? If not, I don't know who the 'mad believers' are and would need some more information about who they are)(period) Chased by her starbilly (FYI, I don't know what this word means) family across Lacuna, the only planet she knows (I'd expand this sentence to explain why her family is chasing her). Yet, as she gets further from home and her horizons broaden out, she finds she's the granddaughter of the legitimate governor (governor of what? Lacuna? And why is that important? I don't see a connection here. So far, this seems like a story about a girl who grew up in an abused family, found a unicorn and then learns her real family is important. I know that's not really your story, but that's how it's coming across to me so far). Lacuna has been taken over by a multiplanetary crime cartel and Jas carries the contractual DNA that could end their rule (You've given no hint as to why DNA could end their rule. Also, your choice of 'contractual' makes me pause each time I read it. It makes me think that it's a contract for DNA) . All she has to do is cross the burning prairies. (comma) penetrate the giant security dome surrounding the city of Hook and present her DNA to Elsy, the grumpy supercomputer, (period) Simple! Except she's still pursued by her murderous family (now that we know she has a long-lost family too, you'll need to be more specific about who, exactly, is pursing her and why); the planet-jackers (do these guys have a name? I'm guessing they do, so I'd suggest putting that somewhere sooner so you can reference back to it. You know, for clarity :happy: ) all have gunsnot to mention a powerful desire to use them(redundant. We already know they're bad guys); and nobody's heard a word from Elsy in two-hundred years. Just as well the unicorn seems to have a plan (I need a little more about the unicorn earlier on for this sentence to really punch. As it stands, all I know is Jas befriended a unicorn but here, I learn that the unicorn is an important part of the plot. There needs to be more about him/her).

I'm an active member of SFWA with publications in, amongst others, Nature, Nature Physics, Odyssey Adventures in Science. I'm not versed in science fiction publications (sorry), but are these books or magazines? Would an agent know? What kind of publications did you have in them? This is very vague to me.


My collection Fun with Rainbows launched the Immersion Press imprint (BSFA award 2010 finalist for best artwork) with the story The Cloth from which she is Cut also being nominated. This doesn't read well out loud.
The collection (the same collection as Fun with Rainbows?) made it into the SFcrowsnest 'The Hyper Hundred' best books of 2010.
Upcoming work, I have the first story in the Immersion Book of Steampunk due out later in 2011.

Thanks for taking the time to read this Thank you for your consideration (just sounds more formal, and agents like formal)


Hey Gareth! Lots of progress here! Between your explanation and this new draft, I feel like I'm getting to the meat of your MS (and it's tasty). I'm still left with some questions though and the flow could still be improved. You're definitely right about queries being difficult when your MS is already polished. :smile: Looking forward to your next revision. Keep it up! :biggrin:

#10 Gareth

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 07:18 AM

Thanks Jshaw, all good stuff. I shall print it out and have a good mull over, but a couple I can cover

"but are these books or magazines? Would an agent know? What kind of publications did you have in them? This is very vague to me".

I wouldn't want an agent that hadn't heard of Nature, one of my proudest boasts is I write SF so hardcore it's been published in Nature, the intro to Fun with Rainbows was written by Henry Gee, Senior Editor.

http://www.nature.co...ture/index.html

Circulation is large, last time I bumped into Dr Gee he told me one of my stories had had a number of readers online so huge, I literally fell over backwards (and I still have a sneaking suspicion one of us must have made a mistake).

He's put a few of them up for free
http://www.nature.co...ll/454366a.html

Odyssey Adventures in Science has a target demographic of 9-15 year-old, a good sized circulation, and is bought a lot by school librarians so each copy has about five pairs of eyes on it. It's a fairly well known market for SF short fiction and an SFWA qualifying sale. If I had to explain any of this to an agent I was pitching to, then I would have made a mistake in sending them the pitch.
(The fact that when I told most of mates I'd sold to Nature they thought it was a magazine about cows and hedgehogs probably catches about the right note, but I'd expect anybody in the business to know what I was going on about)

oh and the last line you crossed out, was for you not the agent, so I'll say it again. Thanks for taking the time to read this, you folks are the best lens I could have hoped for

#11 Stefanzo

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 07:50 AM

It's still too confusing Gareth. I'm having the same trouble with mine--trying to get all the cool stuff into it!
What I'm learning though is to jettison some detail and concentrate on (i)showing my writers voice, (ii)making the reader care about my main characters, and (iii)showing the most interesting conundrums facing my characters. Hopefully the reader will care about my characters enough to want to see how it turned out. I heard that a good way to go about it is to focus on the first 1/3 of the novel. That's where the conundrums are, not the detail. It's bloody hard though, eh?
The unicorn with a plan line is a cracker!

Suggestions:

Jas didn't want to be locked up in the woodshed, marry her addled cousin, or be be shot at any more.

When Jas befriends a genetically engineered unicorn, she runs from the Mountaintop of the Mad Believers. Her murderous, starbilly family gives chase. the only planet she knows. Yet, as she gets further from home and her horizons broaden out, she finds she's the granddaughter of the legitimate governor. The planet of Lacuna has been taken over by a multiplanetary crime cartel, and Jas carries the contractual DNA that could end their rule. All she has to do is cross the burning prairies, penetrate the giant security dome surrounding the city of Hook, and present her DNA to Elsy, the grumpy supercomputer. Simple! Except for her murderous family ... all have guns not to mention a powerful desire to use them; and the planet-jackers guns are vicious(or whatever they are), and nobody's heard a word from Elsy in two-hundred years. Just as well the unicorn seems to have a plan.

#12 Gareth

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 09:02 AM

Thanks Stefanzo

I like you avatar.

Looking at the balance of the comments on the new version, I need to make it less confusing and find a catchy way of explaining contractual DNA. Thanks for taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it. I'll have a think and come up with a fresh one.

#13 galaxyspinner

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 02:17 PM

I was able to follow what's going on well enough. My problem is that what I'm getting amounts to "girl who is secretly a princess needs to get from point A to point B before bad guys get her." The fact that she's special strictly by birthright and the fact that the unicorn seems to be doing the work and coming up with the plan evokes for me a story about a human MacGuffin, which can be infuriating and unsatisfying. I'd try to bring out whatever you can vis a vis this girl's merit and pathos, lest a would-be agent thinks your protagonist is a plot coupon.

Are you an actress looking for a comedic monologue? Check out Lady Parts: 50 Monologues for Funny Actresses.

 

Critique my query: Buccaneers of the Wild Blue


#14 Gareth

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 03:34 PM

Thanks Galaxyspinner

I appreciate the danger of the plot coupon, and understand the basis of your comments and will think about your suggestion for improvement.

#15 bkeats

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Posted 01 July 2011 - 07:26 AM

Heh, heh... "Plot Coupon." I've never heard that term before :biggrin:

I'll jump in with some random blatherings constructive advice on your next revision. Gareth.




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