Thursday, July 20, 2006

Face-Lift 127


Guess the Plot

Dream War

1. DreamWarrior X!sha'rrr is charging into battle when he suddenly realizes he's wearing nothing but his underwear.

2. By day they are strangers, ordinary people riding the same bus to work. But by night, Randy and Erica fight pitched battles that could determine the fate of DreamWorld--and of mankind itself.

3. The CIA has a new weapon that allows them to insert their operatives into the dreams of our enemies to extract information. Little do they know that Luczveyn Dred, a sinister entity that covets our world, is also planning an attack through dreams.

4. December 2002--Bush and Rove fall victim to a forgotten Russian mind-weapon which induces dreams of happy Iraqis welcoming the 3rd Infantry with open arms.

5. Private First Class Cordelia Winge sweats it out in basic training, knowing that somewhere there is a war with honor, with dignity, with curtains.

6. They declare war. You posture. They surrender. DreamWar.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

What evil lurks within the shadow of our dreams? [Only the CIA knows.] In 1981, a CIA subsidiary, the Oneirology Institute of America, perfected technology to insert their operatives into people’s dreams. In the interests of National Security, they intended to extract information from our enemies’ minds. [Turned out our enemies mostly dreamed about sex, food, and falling from cliffs; almost never about state secrets.] Their initial successes led them into an ambush. All O.I.A. agents, except Hector Lopez, were murdered. He escaped a shadowy entity with the help of a mysterious medallion. [He dangled it in front of the shadowy entity, hypnotizing it.] [Then, for laughs, he told the shadowy entity it was a chicken.]

This week, in Naples, Italy, tourist Andy Falconer discovered an ancient medallion hidden in his luggage. [This week? And you've written a book about it already?] When the hotel manager was found murdered in Andy’s ransacked room, a detective transported him to Rome supposedly to provide him protection. The following day, in the sacristy of a basilica, he witnessed the murder of a priest. The dying man’s final act was to press a medallion into Andy’s hand identical to the one he’d found in his suitcase.

Now, a terrorist group plots to conceal knowledge of Mount Vesuvius’ impending eruption. [They've dropped a million smokeless ashtrays into the crater.] [How is it that a terrorist group knows of this impending eruption, but volcanologists aren't swarming all over the place?]

Naples resident: There seems to be a lot of smoke coming from the volcano these days. Also, rumbling noises, spewing ash, boulders being thrown into the air, the occasional lava flow.
Terrorist: Relax. It's nothing. A practical joke. Kids these days.

They are loyal to Luczveyn Dred, the sinister entity that’s dimension intertwines with our own, through our dreams. It covets our world. The volcanic catastrophe would provide sufficient momentum for it to breech dimensions and inflict a reign of terror on earth. Soon, it will be too late to evacuate Naples and millions will die. [Does Luc just need an eruption to breach dimensions? Or does he need millions of deaths. I don't think you can rely on a volcano killing millions.] Can Lopez, Andy, and others willing to fight evil, unite, defeat Luczveyn Dred, and save the world from apocalypse? Please do your part by reading the enclosed writing sample and responding as soon as possible (SASE is enclosed).

DreamWar, a horror novel disguised as a thriller, [In an attempt to keep horror fans from buying it.] is complete at 77,000 words. It weaves elements of fictional history, dark fantasy, and suspense into a story that is available upon your request. It has already been professionally copyedited.

For three seasons, I reported weekly for Footballguys.com, a website with a subscription base of seventy-thousand. I look forward to working with you in pursuit of DreamWar’s publication.

Best,


Notes

There's too much here that Evil Editor doesn't buy. That everyone in a CIA subsidiary would be in the same place, allowing an ambush that kills them all. That operatives can be inserted into dreams, and get useful information. That terrorists can conceal an impending volcanic eruption. That the parents of a shadowy entity would name their kid Luczveyn.

Also, it doesn't feel right to set up a spy story, with the dream infiltration and the medallions, and then bring in an entity from another dimension trying to take over Earth. I think you should write a horror novel or a thriller, and not disguise one as the other. But perhaps my minions will see things differently.

51 comments:

Malia said...

[Then, for laughs, he told the shadowy entity it was a chicken.]

Shoulda known better than to be eating lunch while reading this....

word verification: zntdmbb = the sound one makes while reading EE and eating kung pao shrimp

Anonymous said...

I love plot #1. As for the query, this was my favorite bit: "The dying man’s final act was to press a medallion into Andy’s hand identical to the one he’d found in his suitcase."

Hands in suitcases. Mmm.

FishM

Barbara said...

I think you should write a horror novel or a thriller, and not disguise one as the other. But perhaps my minions will see things differently.

Tim Powers managed it in DECLARE, but that may be the exception that proves the rules.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you, EE. Unless your H. P. Lovecraft, giving your evil entity a virtually unpronounceable name like Luczveyn is a very bad idea.

I'm also reasonably certain that there is no way of inventing a machine to implant yourself in someone's dreams. Overall, I'd say he'd be better off turning it into a spell, and making the thing a fantasy novel. The story's already half way there what with the magic amulets and the extra-dimensional entity.

born_liar said...

Wow.

The CIA dream-plot and the magic medallion were improbable enough. But then I saw the name "Luczveyn Dred" in the Guess the Plot entry and thought, that one's got to be fake.

braun said...

I'm curious - who did GtP #1?

I ask because I submitted one with the same basic, revolutionary idea (fighting in no pants) but with different names and settings. I just wondered if a) I've found my soul mate or b) EE is doing some serious wholesale editing.

Anonymous said...

"They are loyal to Luczveyn Dred, the sinister entity that’s dimension intertwines with our own"

I'm cringing at that.

Hey, isn't Evil Editor supposed to help people fix their synopses, not advise them on rewriting their entire manuscripts? He should start charging.

Word verification: wveqb - the noise Luczveyn Dred makes when he gets a papercut.

Novelust said...

1. Are the terrorists hiding the eruption, or planning to cause the eruption? The former strikes me as impossible, but the latter only implausible. I could buy the latter. Either way, I need this facet of the book presented in a different way.

2. For the love of Pete, please tell me why I care about Andy. He's some tourist who finds a medallion, is given another, and two people nearby die/are dead. Is he a dreamguythingamibob? Why should I read about him?

3. I'll agree with the Evil Editor. You've set up this very espionage-type storyline (did I detect a hint of 'Dreamscape'?) and then up pops something from way out in left field (like, beyond left field - over the fence and out in the stadium parking lot, maybe).

Imagine the Da Vinci Code chugging along, murder, art, Jesus, evil monk, yadda yadda -

Robert Langdon: "But why is this happening? What secrets are they hiding?"

Sir Teabing: "...Elves."

Of course the Da Vinci Code would've been improved by elves, but the world presented in the story didn't have the room for them (so, alas, the elves were cut and they hurriedly sandwiched in that bit about Mary Magdalene).

The evil, multi-dimensional entity is jarring the way it's presented. It doesn't seem to fit with the suggested plot. Does this guy head up the terrorists? Could he be controlling the head of the terrorists through dreams? Are the terrorists trying to let out the Evil Entity so that he'll grant them phenomenal dream powers?

Connect the dots for us a little more - your story sounds like it could be exciting.

daniel said...

Braun: I wrote GtP #1, so I guess that means I am your soulmate. That being the case, let's get married.

P.S. Are you a man or a woman?

pjd said...

What, no vampires? After seeing all the twists (spies to dreams to evil entities to volcanoes to terrorists), I expected to see "also, a vampire" somewhere along the line.

At least there could be zombies. Or brutal eunuchs, maybe, if you can't find a place for the zombies.

braun said...

I'm male, but if you're an altar boy...

Nevermind.

December Quinn said...

What does the priest have to do with the CIA? Are priests normally used as CIA operatives these days? Did someone confess something to the priest and give him the medallion? Cuz if so it would be wrong of him to give it to somebody else, you know.

I agree. Get rid of the CIA thing. This could be a really good dark fantasy. Then the Lucozade Dred terrorists can be evil followers planning a ritual to cause the volcano to erupt so he/it/whatever can invade, because I agree, the idea that terrorists know about it but seismologists don't is just confusing.

kis said...

"They are loyal to Luczveyn Dred, the sinister entity that’s dimension intertwines with our own"

Made me cringe, too. We get that this thing's not human, but it's evil and, I would guess, sentient, so even if it's a demon, a blob, or a (gasp!) purple unicorn, the proper word is "whose."

And if this guy's a good writer, he could pull off a blending of science and supernatural. Joss Whedon did it with Buffy and Angel, and he can't possibly be the only one.

As for horror disguised as a thriller, that makes people think you're trying to put one over on them. How about "horror with thriller elements," or something like that?

daniel said...

Maybe the author and I are alone on this, but I totally think one could write a hybrid horror/thriller. (Wasn't this, in a way, what the X-Files was?) I think the key is in how you present it in the book and in the query.

In the book you need to introduce the supernatural aspect right away. No one would blink if a CIA agent showed up halfway through a horror novel. However, the inverse is not true--having a supernatural being appear halfway through a spy thriller would seem jarring and ludicrous.

In the query, I would call the book a horror novel with a side of thriller (not in those words). I think the phrase in the query "a horror novel disguised as a thriller" is irking people, specifically the word "disguised," so I would definitely lose that.

I agree that the name Luczveyn Dred is a little over the top. He should be renamed Luczveyn Dreamkiller.

Good luck, author!

Catherine said...

Altarboy and Braun,

I love it--Evil Editor's dating service!

Perhaps EE can match others up and marry them too, a la Rev. Sun Yung Myung Moon

JerseyGirl said...

[Then, for laughs, he told the shadowy entity it was a chicken.]

No, no, EE, a zombie, the entity said zombie! ;-)

...And I see PJD stole part of my thunder (bummer).

Anyway, this could be a good dark fantasy (like december quinn said) if the whole CIA bit was dropped. Oh, and the terrorists, too. Terrorists would know before the scientists? Doesn't sound right to me.

And that thing about finding the medallion "this week"? Make it 10 years later (1991) or 20 years later (2001; with 9/11, that could make it an esp. creepy tie in - that lots of dark things are taking place all over the world right around that time...).

Or not. ;-) FWIW, I'd turn it into a dark fantasy/horror story and skip the CIA stuff.

~Nancy

Bernita said...

Like the title.
But what does this talisman have to do with it all?
First we have the CIA zombies fiddling with dreams and then this evil alien eunuch from another dimension. Maybe I'm dim,I don't see the connection between the plot points in the query.

braun said...

Look, I'm an open-minded kind of guy but here's the thing -

I'm not Catholic.

Steve Prosapio said...

From the author:

THANKS EE (the chicken and smokeless ashtrays cracked me up) and all who commented!

I WAS hoping on a critique of the QUERY, not orders to rewrite the plot before page one has been opened. I’ll take the interest as a good sign; apathy would scare me much more than concerns about the execution of my story.

A couple quick things: Eruption = death. Vesuvius is the world’s most dangerous volcano because of its history of sudden, massive eruptions and the fact that approximately 2 million people live in congested quarters inside the volcano’s danger zone. By the time the volcano started smoking…it would be far too late to evacuate.

Agents in dreams retrieving valuable information is not a unique concept (see The Cell). Also, agents are trained in manipulating the subconscious mind of the dreamer.

It has documented that the CIA has used psychic phenomenon, so I don’t see that as being a stretch.

Luczveyn Dred – Don't you think Kaiser Sose, Darth Vader, Ebenezer Scrooge, and Victor Frankenstein all sounded pretty “far fetched” at one point???

I realize I’m biting a lot off with this story. A little willing suspension of disbelief will go a long way.

Alter Boy, thanks for the vote of confidence. Anyone wanting to contact me directly please feel free at steve (underscore) (at) prosapio (dot) net.

Thanks again!

Steve

bonniers said...

Terrorist: Relax. It's nothing. A practical joke. Kids these days.

Sigh. I know better than to be drinking coffee while reading Evil Editor! Even if it is my coffee break :)

I suspect this story is not as chaotic as the summary makes it sound. Let me see if I've got this straight:

CIA spooks get information from the Russians through their dreams.

Some evil entity (that we can presume to be Luczveyn) kills all the CIA guys through their dreams, except for Hector.

Time passes. Andy finds a medallion in his suitcase. (Why Andy? What did he do to deserve this?) The hotel manager is murdered, presumably by somebody trying to get the medallion back. Andy is whisked off to Rome by a detective (Hector??), where he witnesses another murder and acquires another medallion. (Does it matter that the second victim is a priest murdered in the basilica?)

Terrorists loyal to Luczveyn know that L. is about to cause Vesuvius to erupt, bringing L. into this world with the lava and stuff (sort of like vomiting bad food?). And they're somehow covering up the signs that would tip off the authorities to the impending eruption? Because they need a lot of people dead?

And the good guys have to use the medallions to stop them? (How many medallions? Two or three? And if you put one on your taxi, does that make you legal in NYC?)

You imply that the detective is working on both sides. If he's not Hector, how does Hector figure into the later plot and why does it matter whether he survives? And who is the detective?

I think I could be intrigued into buying this book...

Anonymous said...

Obviously the writer needs to relocate to the dreamworld in order to make his story more realistic.

Mignon said...

Jayne Ann Krentz recently wrote a book called "Falling Awake," which was about a secret CIA-type group involved in lucid dreaming.

December Quinn said...

Steve, the interest is a good sign, but the questions and criticisms about the plot that we have are the same ones and agent or editor will have when s/he reads the query. So in essence, we are critiquing the query.

We've pointed out things that would make us say, "WTF?" when reading your query, which quite possibly would lead us to conclude that the book is a mishmash of confusion and send a "No thanks".

Answer the questions in the query and you get your story across--making it easier to get a request from someone to see more.

Catherine said...

Steve,

Great points. Using what you've told us you can rewrite an intriguing query and resubmit to EE. Just rename the ms. Maybe EE won't notice :o)> Actually, I think he will but he's a softy, in case you haven't noticed.

Being challenged to explain my points has sometimes helped me find the few precise words I needed in the first place. I have a mentor who simply used to ask me Why? Well, because... The because often provided the right words and phraseology I needed in the first place. --Cathy

Evil Editor said...

I WAS hoping on a critique of the QUERY, not orders to rewrite the plot before page one has been opened.

When we bring up the plot, we're merely saying that the query is inviting questions that it doesn't answer. If the query can be written such that it answers some of the questions, and doesn't invite the others, it might work better.

Nut said...

A chicken... but, what happened to the lizards?

Steve Prosapio said...

Thanks EE and minions!

I'll get back to work...

Mazement said...

Actually, the secret society I belong to controls the field of ornithology. Not every ornithologist is a member, but you'll never get any kind of tenure-track position without the approval of the Secret Masters. We're not terrorists, but it's not all that far-fetched to imagine that motivated terrorists could have taken control of vulcanology in order to supress information.

(I just remembered that I'm not supposed to tell that to anyone, so I'd appreciate it if the information doesn't leave this blog. Thanks in advance!)

Here's my take on the query:

The way I'm reading this, Andy is the main point-of-view character, so he should be in the first paragraph. The second paragraph would be, "He's rescued by Hector, a CIA agent who etc. etc. etc."

(Or if you're switching from Andy's point-of-view to Hector's in alternate chapters, then make that clearer.)

"Insert their operatives into people's dreams" is misleading...it might be better to say that the operatives are projecting themselves into the abstract space where people go to dream. If that gets established early on then all the other fantasy elements come out as a natural consequence of that.

It might also be worth hinting at why Andy's getting so many medallions all of a sudden. (Hopefully it's not just because he's the Prophecied Chosen One. That one's getting a little old.)

Jeb said...

Yesterday 'Sleepwalking', today the dream story... is this a sign that EE isn't getting enough rest?

eneygngk said...

Luczveyn Dred – Don't you think Kaiser Sose, Darth Vader, Ebenezer Scrooge, and Victor Frankenstein all sounded pretty “far fetched” at one point???

The difference here is that the others can be pronounced pretty reliably at a glance, but "Luczveyn" has a lot of letter combinations that English speakers would stumble on. Is it "Luke's vein?" Could you spell it differently, or go to something less harsh in the middle like Lucsweyn?

I'd leave out the bit about professional editing--they need to know you've got a good product, not how it got there. I'm not put off by the horror/thriller mix because Dean Koontz does it all the time. The volcano science is still a sticking point for me--I would find it more believable if the impending explosion was artificial somehow, terrorist-induced so that scientists would have no warning. And you do need to mention why Andy is cool enough to start collecting medallions.

Good luck with it!

Steve Prosapio said...

oh drats,
email is steve (at) prosapio (dot) net

Bonniers - you nailed it. Scary that someone who's never read it can explain my book better than I can!!!

Mama Rose said...

The problem I see with the name "Luczveyn" is that it's not easily read without stopping and working it out. I don't want to have to stop and figure out what someone's name is. I want to get on with reading the story. Give me the equivalent of "Joe". You could use "Luc". :)

Linda

Kanani said...

What evil lurks within the shadow of our dreams?
Whether it's lurking in 'the heart of darkness' or the 'shadow of our dreams,' it is a cliche, and is a red flag that your book might be full of them. Unfortunately, you've chosen to use a cliche as the first line of your query letters. Many agents would be put off by this alone.

You have a lot of people, and many seemingly disjointed events all in the space of this query. I can't get into all of it, but you need to whittle it down.

One last thing... have you read your work aloud? Have you read it to anyone to listen to (who wasn't enamored of either you or or work?). If you had read this query aloud, you would've heard how confusing it is. Who is the main character? What happens with the guy on the first paragraph? who dies in the second paragraph? And on and on. Reading it aloud will help you hear how unclear things are.

Hint: Read everything you write aloud.

Good luck!

eleora3 said...

I like the name Luczveyn (looks vain, sounds vain) but I do write fantasy *grin*

I think thriller/horror would work, maybe even with the sci-fi thing (only if it played a prominent role from the beginning to set the expectations). But this would make a great urban fantasy espionage sort of piece.

The dream thing sounds cool and is more easily explained with magic.

Good luck revising, author

daniel said...

Author, just out of curiosity, how did you intend for Luczveyn to be pronounced?

Lewkz-vayn?

Lukz-vayn?

Luze-vayn?

Fred?

bonniers said...

Steve -- sometimes it's easier to explain the high-level stuff from a distance. A person gets too involved with their own work to be able to see what really matters. When I'm doing my own book, every detail seems critical :)

I would make sure to get Luczveyn into that first paragraph about the dreaming. You might want to surprise your reader, but the agent or editor reading the query needs to know who the antagonist is. Also make clear who the main POV character is, and who is doing what to whom. You want to intrigue the editor, yes, but you also want to let them know that you have a solid, coherent story to sell.

I think it might also help to spend a few words on what the medallions are and why they stop this evil being.

Now I definitely want to read this book :) Need a beta reader?

Steve Prosapio said...

I appreciate the continued comments! Thanks elenora for the encouragement.

Luczveyn - Looz-vain

If it's that big of a distraction, I could change it but I have had positive feedback on it as well. Take out the 'c' and I lose the Lucifer look/reference. Take out the 'z' and it becomes Lucveyn and looks like it would be Luk-vain which I don't want. Is Luczvein better?

Bonniers email me. I may need a beta reader, my Writer's group only meets every other week and will (hopefully) get all the way through it.

Evil Editor said...

Take out the 'c' and I lose the Lucifer look/reference.

And this is a bad thing? Is he Lucifer or not?

Charlie Brown wouldn't have kept trusting Lucy not to pull the football away if he'd only noticed the Lucifer look/reference.

If only Fred and Ethel and Ricky had seen the Lucifer look/reference, life would have been so much less hectic for them.

Lucky Lindy, Luciano Pavarotti, Santa Lucia, Lucrezia Borgia. Having never seen the Lucifer connection with these names, I'm thinking if that's what you're going for, you should try Beelzeveyn.

Anonymous said...

"the CIA has used psychic phenomenon..."

No, they haven't.

They really haven't.

Steve Prosapio said...

Thanks EE - Good point. I guess it's going down as Luzveyn.

Anon. They did, they really did!

http://store.aetv.com/html/product/index.jhtml?id=12531

Steve Prosapio said...

Dear Editor,
“By 2100, Mount Vesuvius will certainly repeat its most dramatic performance, the infamous eruption of 79 AD.”
- 32nd World Geological Conference, 2003

Volcanologists agree that warning signs will occur one to two weeks before the eruption. There should be enough notice to evacuate the two million people living in the shadow of the world's most dangerous volcano. But what if warning signs are concealed and escape routes are sabotaged?

If recovering alcoholic Andy Faulkner believed that, once sober, his life would slow down, he couldn’t have been more wrong. On vacation in Italy, he and his girlfriend, Nadia, find an ancient silver medallion planted in their luggage. The following day, in the sacristy of a basilica, Andy witnesses the murder of a priest. The dying man’s final act is to hand him another medallion. What purpose do these silver pieces serve and are they somehow connected to the nightmares that suddenly plague the couple?

Andy and Nadia connect with Hector Lopez, an espionage specialist who has experienced the medallions’ power. In 1981, the Oneirology Institute of America, a CIA subsidiary, developed a technology to beam his brainwaves into our enemies’ dreaming minds, allowing Lopez to extract information. During a mission inside a terrorist’s dream, a portal opened to another dimension. That dimension is ruled by Luzveyn Dred, a demon who now intends on using the upcoming volcanic eruption to merge his world with ours, and ignite the apocalypse. The Sogno di Guerra, a group loyal to Luzveyn Dred, has already infiltrated the Vesuvius Observatory. Time is running out. Is it still possible to defeat the demon and save the world from apocalypse?

Dream War, a horror/thriller is complete at 80,000 words. I’ve enclosed a writing sample (with SASE); a full manuscript is available at your request. I look forward to working with you in pursuit of Dream War’s publication.

Cathy Writes Romance said...

Much more cohesive!

Does EE have suggestions on revisions?

Dave said...

Instead of these two sentences:
"Volcanologists agree that warning signs will occur one to two weeks before the eruption. There should be enough notice to evacuate the two million people living in the shadow of the world's most dangerous volcano."

I'd say:
"Volcanologists agree that they can give about two weeks notice for evacution before Vesuvius erupts."

You need fewer words before the But what if statement of danger.

Cassie said...

The second is much better, and makes much more sense to me.

The only thing I would change is a grammatical issue.

If recovering alcoholic Andy Faulkner believed that his life would slow down after he stopped drinking, he couldn’t have been more wrong.
instead of If recovering alcoholic Andy Faulkner believed that, once sober, his life would slow down,

It made me think, as I was reading it, "If he knew . . . that people would die with the escape routes closed off? Oh, waaaaait!"

Bernita said...

MUCH better.

Anonymous said...

author - I like the opening but it's a tad misleading, as I thought (not having read your earlier query) that you were setting up a realistic book, not a fantastical one (and thus the title had me confused). Maybe your first sentence should be the one about the title, genre and word count, just so we know where we stand up front.

megan said...

By introducing the supernatural element earlier, you got rid of the jolt I felt when reading the first draft and coming to the part about the demon. This draft feels focused.

Steve Prosapio said...

Thanks all for the comments and suggestions!

Cassie, I love your line and am using it.

Dave, - you're right. Does this work better?

Volcanologists agree that warning signs occurring approximately two weeks before the eruption should be enough notice to evacuate the two million people living around Vesuvius. But what if warning signs are concealed and escape routes are sabotaged?

Shelby said...

Now THAT'S a book I'd be interested in reading--great rewrite! Thank you so much for ditching the c in Luzveyn.

I agree with the commenter who said that you might want to mention the genre in the beginning. I'm glad you moved our demon up more, but it still came as a bit of a surprise because it had seemed very straightforward from the beginning. What I would do is rewrite But what if warning signs are concealed and escape routes are sabotaged?
into something like:
But what if someone [or something--your choice] had the power to conceal the warning signs and sabotage the escape routes?

That tells us that there is more to this story than meets the eye--there is some kind of larger, malevolent force, and he's bent on destruction. It gives us a tiny hint that he's coming (and later sets us up for the explanation as to why he wants to do this), and it also clues us in that this isn't just an Indiana Jones kind of thing.

Great rewrite and good luck with this novel.

Anonymous said...

" "the CIA has used psychic phenomenon..."

No, they haven't.

They really haven't."

They did heavily research certain types of psychic phenomena.

http://www.remoteviewinghistory.com/cia-remote-viewing-at-stanford-research-institute.html

Steve Prosapio said...

Thanks Shelby. I love the suggestion!

anyone else wanting to keep up with my progress - check out my book's website

www.nightofnights.com


Steve