Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Guess the Plot
The Last Lion of Sparta
1. Sparta has become the laughingstock of Greek city-states. Can Buttercup and Wesley forge a plan to return her to her glorious status?
2. In the far-distant future, a genetically-engineered race of lion-human hybrids looks to the ancient world for inspiration in its battle against an insectile hive-mind.
3. Aurora Phillips was enchanted by the sights of historic Greece, and longed for the romance of the past. When she found herself swept back in time and captured by brusque Spartan captain Phylon, the brutal reality was anything but romantic.
4. Roberto is old. He looks over the sparkling Aegean Sea, and recounts his life story to his great-granddaughter. Roberto's story crosses two oceans, five women, and three murders. Will he survive his memories?
5. By day, Leo drives a cab around Chicago. But when the full moon rises he transforms into a wildly maned warrior. All he needs now is an enemy.
6. The wily fox Alcibiades advises the lions of Sparta in their campaigns against the Athenians. All the while the Helot jackals look for their chance to overthrow their lion overlords.
Dear Ms. Agent:
Whatever happened to Sparta? [Evil Editor has no idea. Nor do I know what happened to Troy. Hell, I don't even know what happened to Troy Donahue.] Did she just fade from the pages of history? Did her formidable army ever tangle with Rome? Interest in these questions led me to write my 106,500-word historical novel The Last Lion of Sparta. [Ironically, you could have Googled "Sparta" and satisfied your curiosity in five seconds; instead, you write a 106,500-word novel, and you still don't know what happened to Sparta.]
A father and son, attempting to survive the Goth invasion of Greece 1600 years ago, discover an ancient codex in the ruins of Sparta describing the exploits of Cleomenes and his queen Agiatis 600 years earlier. The father reads from the tome when he can. His story, in present tense, is interwoven with the main story of Cleomenes in past tense. [This is like The Princess Bride; the father reading to the son is like Peter Falk reading to Fred Savage. Except, Peter Falk and Fred Savage weren't trying to survive a Goth invasion at the time.]
After a protracted decline, Sparta at that time is a third-rate backwater trying to survive on her past reputation. The real power lies in the hands of Damochares, [Count Rugen] chief of a corrupt board of magistrates. Damochares convinces Cleomenes’ father the king [Prince Humperdinck] to execute a reform-minded aristocrat. The king forces the murdered man’s wife Agiatis, who has just inherited considerable property, to marry eighteen-year-old Cleomenes to keep the wealth in the king’s family. [I don't hear Agiatis complaining about trading in her 60-year-old husband for an 18-year-old stud muffin.]
Against all odds, Agiatis and Cleomenes [Buttercup and Wesley, of course.] fall in love. Her influence becomes the smith’s bellows that fans Cleomenes’ predisposition for change into a roaring flame. He and Agiatis devise a plan to return Sparta to the ancient austerity and equality that once made her a legend. [Her legendary austerity is why Sparta disappeared. If women can't at least have a little color in the curtains, they're not hanging around long.] They know they have to be careful, but their time is limited. They must overcome Damochares, warring Greek cities and a ruthless warlord in time to build a coalition strong enough to prevent Rome from overrunning Greece.
Recent movies such as Gladiator and Alexander [Gladiator and Alexander? I thought it was Fannie and Alexander.] as well as Steven Pressfield’s best-seller Gates of Fire show that a sizeable adult market continues to exist for historical drama concerning ancient Greece and Rome. As the first novel involving both Sparta and Rome, The Last Lion of Sparta should be of considerable interest to readers of literary fiction. [Another reason Troy gets a blockbuster movie and a condom, while Sparta gets nothing: the Horse. After being duped by the Trojan Horse, Troy should be laughingstocks; instead they're famous. Goes to show there's no such thing as bad publicity.] [Now if Sparta had fallen for the Spartan Cow, instead of setting it on fire, maybe it would be a different story today.]
I base my dramatization of Cleomenes and Agiatis on my study of ancient sources [Including a 1600-year-old codex I found in my basement.] and modern histories. My fiction has recently appeared in the literary magazine Lynx Eye and Nth Degree.
Knowing agents face a slush pile of queries that grows faster than Jack’s beanstalk, I appreciate you taking the time to read mine. I have enclosed the first five pages. The complete manuscript is available upon request.
Dear Ms. Agent:
Whatever happened to Sparta? Did she simply fade from the pages of history? Did her formidable army ever tangle with Rome? Interest in these questions led me to write my 106,500-word historical novel The Last Lion of Sparta.
After a protracted decline, Sparta of 200 B.C. is a third-rate backwater trying to survive on her past reputation. The real power of the state lies in the hands of Damochares, chief of a corrupt board of magistrates. Damochares convinces the king to have a reform-minded aristocrat executed. The king then forces the dead man’s wife, Agiatis, to marry his son, Cleomenes, bringing her newly inherited wealth and property into the king’s family.
Against all odds, Agiatis and Cleomenes fall in love. Her influence becomes the bellows that fans Cleomenes’ predisposition for change into a roaring flame. He and Agiatis devise a plan to return Sparta to the ancient austerity and equality that once made her a legend. But their time is limited. They must overcome Damochares, warring Greek cities and a ruthless warlord in time to build a coalition strong enough to prevent Rome from overrunning Greece.
I have based my dramatization of Cleomenes and Agiatis on a lifetime spent studying ancient and modern histories. A sizeable adult market has long existed for historical drama involving ancient Greece and Rome. As perhaps the first novel involving both Sparta and Rome, The Last Lion of Sparta should be of considerable interest to readers of historical fiction.
My fiction has recently appeared in the literary magazine Lynx Eye and Nth Degree. I appreciate your taking the time to consider this query. I have enclosed the first five pages; the complete manuscript is available upon request.
The original query was fine. What isn't clear is the role played by the father/son who find the codex. If they're merely a literary device telling the story, do you really need them? Do readers want to deal with Sparta vs. Rome at the same time they're dealing with a Goth invasion 600 years later? The codex may as well be discovered in present day, and mentioned only in a prologue. If at all. If the father/son do play an integral role in the book, it's worth considering telling their story in past tense. Present tense becomes annoying after a while.
Agomonestra enters the agora with his son, Hippodrome. "Look, Hippo," Agomonestra says, "a codex, in the temple ruins."
Hippodrome stares at Agomonestra blankly and asks, "What's a codex?"
That's about as much present tense as Evil Editor can bear to read before he sets fire to an author's codex.