Monday, August 21, 2006

Face-Lift 163

Guess the Plot

Within Sight of God

1. Henrietta has been in and out of trouble her whole life, and it looks like things are likely to continue that way--until a judge assigns her a very unusual probation.

2. As Moses returns to camp, knowing that the Children of Israel will never believe what really happened on the mountain, he makes up the 10 Commandments, figuring that everyone will soon forget about them.

3. Five murders have been committed, all within sight of a church or synagogue. Detective Gray has no clues, but he does have incentive: his estranged wife will take him back if he solves the case.

4. When Pasang helps a stranded mountaineer with an evangelical bent, he brings religious strife into his peaceful village.

5. St. Egbert of Bagsdale, temping for St. Peter during the key-keeper's annual vacation in the Florida Keys, misdirects two souls and misplaces three more. He has seven days to find them and get them back to heaven, or he gets demoted from Sainted to Blessed.

6. Kui and Leanna dive into the ocean to hide their love-making. But someone is watching. Will the tidal wave be blamed on their indiscretion?


Original Version

Dear AGENT,

Two decades of homicide cases have eaten away at the soul of detective Michael Gray and infected the lives of those he loves. [His obsession with Law and Order has left him a broken, lonely man.] In the course of a day that starts with him kneeling in the snow next to a girl’s corpse and ends with his wife leaving him after suffering a miscarriage, Michael decides he’s finished.

Michael heads a task force investigating a series of ritualistic murders whose victims are mutilated and carefully posed. The latest corpse is the fifth in six weeks, and there are no suspects and few leads. But when Michael tries to quit, even suggesting his personal distractions are doing the investigation more harm than good, he meets resistance from multiple fronts. [For starters, the murderer insists he stay on the case.] His brother, an FBI agent trying to ride Michael’s coattails, fears the case may be turned over to the federal agency, thrusting him into a leadership role he isn’t ready for. [If he isn't ready, what makes him think they'll give him the job?] Michael’s boss expresses confidence and loyalty for past successes, but it’s just as likely he wants Michael to stay so he can be sacrificed later as a political pawn. And Michael’s estranged wife won’t take him back until the killer is caught because she knows he’d never really be free if the case remains unsolved. [Of course, there'll always be an unsolved case, whether it's this one or the next one.]

Seeing no other way out, Michael even considers suicide. Then he meets Orin Indigo, a dying priest [whose name happens to be an anagram for "groin injury," and] who has stumbled on links between the victims in the rosters of his church-associated activities, and may even have found the pattern pointing to the next victim: Jennifer Hannon. [Okay, fess up, how many of you checked to see whether it really was an anagram for groin injury?] Michael recognizes the name from a missing person’s report. Indigo also points out that the apparently unrelated locations where the bodies were found – a school parking lot, a cemetery, an old woman’s back yard – are all within sight of a church or synagogue. [This priest is a better detective than the detective.] Within sight of God, in other words, their deaths a message to the Almighty.

With Indigo’s help, Michael finds Jennifer in the company of Gabriel Westlake, a man with a troubled though perhaps misunderstood past, whose peculiar hypersensitivity disorder has made him a social outcast and once even landed him in prison. Gabriel claims to have kidnapped Jennifer for her own protection, and when Indigo kills Gabriel and escapes with Jennifer, Michael is forced to realize that the priest had far too many answers to be innocent. [For a dying priest, this guy has a lot of energy. Six murders, mutilations, kidnaping--what's he dying of? And what about Thou shalt not kill, mutilate, kidnap, etc.?]

Michael’s confrontation with Indigo after a chase through a sewer tunnel helps him to understand both his capabilities and limitations. [He's capable of running down a dying priest, but the stench of the sewer knocks him unconscious.] Afterward, no longer a detective, Michael also finds that healing his soul begins with healing his family.

I have enclosed a brief synopsis [That was a brief synopsis. Well, except for the "brief" part.] and the first five pages of my suspense / thriller novel entitled Within Sight of God, for which I am seeking representation. If you are interested, I would like the opportunity to send you some chapters or the full manuscript, which is complete at approximately 90,000 words. I have also enclosed a self-addressed, stamped envelope for your reply.

Thank you.


Revised Version

Dear AGENT,

Two decades of homicide cases have eaten away at the soul of detective Michael Gray, but he's never encountered anything like his current case. He heads a task force investigating a series of ritualistic murders whose victims have all been mutilated. The latest corpse is the fifth in six weeks.

With no suspects and few leads, Michael chances to meet Orin Indigo, a dying priest who has stumbled on links between the victims in the rosters of his church-associated activities, and may even have found a pattern pointing to the next victim: Jennifer Hannon. Indigo points out that the apparently unrelated locations where the bodies were found – a school parking lot, a cemetery, an old woman’s back yard – are all within sight of a church or synagogue. Within sight of God.

With Indigo’s help, Michael finds Jennifer in the company of Gabriel Westlake, a social outcast with a troubled past. Westlake has a prison record, and admits to kidnaping Jennifer, but he claims he did so for her own protection. Still, he's Michael's only suspect--until he's murdered.

I have enclosed a brief synopsis and the first five pages of my suspense/thriller entitled Within Sight of God, for which I am seeking representation. If you are interested, I would like the opportunity to send you some chapters or the full manuscript, which is complete at approximately 90,000 words. I have also enclosed a self-addressed, stamped envelope for your reply.

Thank you.


Notes

It was pretty long, and I figured if you're going to describe it as a suspense/thriller, we could do without the estranged wife, the suicide thoughts, the sibling rivalry, etc. Now if it were literary fiction, we'd keep all that and leave out the good stuff.

Although it's not necessary to keep secrets from the agent, she doesn't actually care who's guilty, so why mention to your Catholic agent that you've created a priest who's murdered and mutilated numerous people? Priests have gotten enough bad press lately. She'll find out after she's seen how great your book is (at which point she'll have you make the murderer a Protestant minister, and give him a different name, one that isn't an anagram for "onion dingo").

22 comments:

Dave said...

First - EE - "Orin Indigo, a dying priest [whose name happens to be an anagram for "groin injury...} and"
I liked that, I really liked that. LMAO

I thought the plot was good but a little overloaded. This detective has enough trouble for several novels. He has a serial murderer on his hands, a miscarraige, divorce, physical ailments (he faints in sewers), and suicidal tendencies.

And the recovery of his family from all this can be an entire novel. WOW

That's one helluva load on one character. I just read The King of Lies by John Hart and there the main character only has a divorce and incest (sort of, kind of) to worry about besides the murder.

Anonymous said...

I would LOVE to read this book.

EE, you are too damn funny!

kis said...

Yeah, another case of an author being too close to his work to sift out the really important details and omit the rest. As for the whole Catholic priest/Protestant minister thing--well, who creeps you out more? Peter Popoff or Pope Benedict XVI? Tough call.

HawkOwl said...

I agree with Dave - too much of everything going on. Plus, what kind of mollusk is still not ready for leadership after 20 years at the FBI? I'd lose everything that has nothing to do with the murders. People who read murder mysteries don't really need reasons why the detective is detecting. For that matter, neither do I. It's his job.

Also, it's gonna read like this: chick lit chick lit chick lit murder murder murder murder murder chick lit chick lit. Start with the murder investigation, end with the murder investigation. Write a separate chick lit novel about miscarriages and healing.

Oh, and yes, lose "Orin Indigo." An artiste might name himself Orin Indigo. A human being wouldn't.

That being said, Dave, passing out in sewers isn't a physical ailment. Sewers contain H2S. H2S stops you from breathing and can knock you down instantly, depending on the concentration.

I'm not feeling the sewer chase anyway. Sewer scenes are so 1862.

Anonymous said...

I never ever read mystery, but this intrigued me.

pacatrue said...

My spewing moment was from the notes:
"It was pretty long, and I figured if you're going to describe it as a suspense/thriller, we could do without the estranged wife, the suicide thoughts, the sibling rivalry, etc. Now if it were literary fiction, we'd keep all that and leave out the good stuff."

Anonymous said...

EE,
I checked the anagram! LOL because it was so possible.

Author, I felt tired after reading the query. And I love mysteries & thrillers. Hmm.

EE is most impressive in his comments and funniest in his add-on text. No wonder I'm addicted to this blog.

xiqay said...

I so wanted it to be fake plot # 4.

Then I had a little twinge along the synapses and think that perhaps, once upon a time, I submitted fake plot # 4 to EE's blog. Must get rest.

Someone, anyone, please, tell me you wrote it (#4). Or answer-is it wrong to like your own ideas best?

born_liar said...

I really like this one. The twist with the helpful priest turning out to be the murderer would be awesome to read in the actual novel (except that now I know about it).

And the name... While I could definitely see some character named Orin Indigo, it doesn't seem very... priestly. You know?

Also, I agree that the FBI-agent brother is unnecessary. I like the estranged wife, though, if only because spouses in thrillers are usually trying to convince the hero NOT to let the case consume their lives, rather than demanding that they solve it.

Kara Lennox said...

I personally think there should be some mention of what's going on in the detective's personal life. Detectives don't work in a vacuum. (Maybe just a small mention in the query, though.)

One of the things I love about the TV show The First 48 is that it shows the detectives at home with their spouses and kids as well as on the job or grabbing something to eat. Personal details like that make the characters (in this case, real people) more likable, and if I were an editor I would be interested in the fact that this isn't just a mystery, that the protagonist is a 3-D character.

This is a book I would be interested in reading, BTW. And, Hawkowl, if you don't think good murder mysteries deal with emotional issues and healing--read T. Jefferson Parker.

slatingreview said...

I didn't check the anagram but I bet it is one, and probably not Groin Indio either.

But in a novel full of religious symbolism who would fall for a bad guy named Gabriel, especially when the good guy is named Michael. Don't tell me you named his kid Raphael and his wife Uriel...

HawkOwl said...

No thank you. I'm done reading murder mysteries - especially ones with healing in them. It's so contrived.

And I still say there's no point giving us character development on why the guy is doing his job. The rest of us do our job because it's our job; so can he.

I also thought it made no sense that he's motivated to solve the case because his wife left him because he was too absorbed in the case. Er... If he's already obsessed with this case, why do we need extra motivation? Plus, how does his wife go from "let's have babies" to "estranged" in just six weeks of a case that he's obsessed with but trying to quit at the same time? And if it's gonna be something psychologically deep, what sense does it make that she leaves him after a miscarriage but because of the murders? I would think the miscarriage is more important to her than the fact that he's been on a complex case for six weeks. And if she's leaving him because she thinks he should be paying more attention to the miscarriage thing than to the murders, why would she take him back after the murders? Is he gonna be less of an insensitive jerk on the next case? And if he's been on the job for twenty years, why is she only now leaving him? And how come she's still having babies? She's in her forties by now. Unless she's some kind of younger trophy wife.

Oh, and when we're done asking ourselves how all this makes sense, we still have the murder thing to work on. Way too much work. Though no doubt some will enjoy it.

braun said...

I have a small (minor, trivial, inconsequential - but it's bugging me!) quibble with the title, "Within Sight of God". Assuming you believe in God, he is usually assumed to be omniscient. It would be shocking, perhaps, to title something "Beyond Sight of God" but "Within Sight of God" doesn't really mean anything. Everything is within sight of God.

If you'd like to lighten the mood of your novel a little, I suggest the alternate title "Within Shooting Distance of God". If God turns out to be the killer, it could even be "In God's Sights".

HawkOwl said...

Braun has a point. And actually Within Sight of God kinda sounds like "Christian" fiction to me. But then, Miss Snark says you're not gonna pick the title it's published under anyway, so it doesn't matter if you call it "Onion Dingo in the Avocado Sewer of Death."

braun said...

so it doesn't matter if you call it "Onion Dingo in the Avocado Sewer of Death."

Which, by the way, I would totally read.

xiqay said...

it doesn't matter if you call it "Onion Dingo in the Avocado Sewer of Death."

yes it does. That's going to be the title of my next novel. ;-)

Thanks, Hawkowl.

word verif: zchuz--the novel after onion dingo...

Bernita said...

Clunky, faux awe title.
While publishers often change titles, a good title is your first "hook" to capture an agent's interest.
Some have said so.

HawkOwl said...

Anyone who publishes a novel under the title Onion Dingo in the Avocado Sewer of Death owes me royalties, dagnabit!

(It's a rip-off of an actual movie title, by the way. The original is Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death.)

jrmosher said...

I'm the author of this one. Yesterday I posted a long reply to the first 11 comments, but it never made it to the board somehow. I'll try again:

First, a big thank you to EE ("groin injury" and "onion dingo" - Ha! - I checked both) and all the minions who commented. Some very good stuff here.

EE: Your quips about the synopsis hit it right on the head. I've been trying unsuccessfully to whittle my synopsis down from four pages to one, while also trying to beef up a very weak query letter. Looks like I may have accidentally created my one page synopsis, but now I need to go back to the drawing board on the query.

Dave: The MC doesn't faint in the sewers; EE put that in. He does have a lot of problems, however, which is very much intentional. The suicide attempt is important, and without the other troubles, he'd never have gotten to that point. Crammed into a query, it is overload, and I'll address that. Sprinkled into the novel, however, I think it all fits properly.

Anon #1 (and others who said they'd like to read this): If I have anything to say about it, you'll get that chance.

Kis: Exactly. My wife's family is Catholic, and I've attended mass with them a handful of times. From an outsider's perspective, it is kind of creepy.

Hawkowl: The FBI agent brother is not the one with 20 years experience (that's the MC.) There is a large gap in their ages and in the choices they've made in their lives and careers. And is any attempt to add emotional depth to a character considered chick-lit? The miscarriage part is somewhat autobiographical. This event shaped part of who I am (hint: not a chick.)

Nobody seems to like the name Orin Indigo, and SlatingReview pointed out the symbolism of Michael and Gabriel's names. They were chosen carefully (at least, Indigo's last name was, due to the color of his character), and I'm hesitant to change them, but I'll try to think of alternatives. (And no, the name is not an anagram, at least not a consciously chosen one.)

Hawkowl again: I won't try to convince you to read something you don't want to, but I'll answer some of these points. No, there's no need to justify why he's doing his job at the start, but there comes a need to justify why he keeps doing it after everything else he has to deal with. The job isn't helping his life any, and in fact is making it worse. A lot of people would just quit. Also, she doesn't leave him because of the murders, but they play a part in her decision of whether to return. After the miscarriage, she moves in with her sister because she needs to be with someone and obviously Michael isn't available. He offers to quit his job to be available, but even as he says this to her, his eye is on the TV screen where a reporter is discussing the case. He's not going to be free of the case unless it is solved. And they've waited a long time for this baby (perhaps too long), because of Michael's job (and hers as well, to be fair.)

Braun: Good point about omniscience. All I'll say is that Indigo has an explanation for his belief that God's attention isn't quite focused on everything, all the time. In any event, I'm keeping the title until a publisher pries it from my cold, advance-check holding hand.

Once again, thanks to all who commented, whether this something you're interested in or not. I appreciate all your help (especially EE). I've also submitted the first 150 words for New Beginnings, so you'll have a crack at that as well.

[JRM]

Margaret said...

I looked it up on Wordsmith, and "Orin Indigo" really is an anagram of "Rigid Onion."

jrmosher said...

'"Orin Indigo" really is an anagram of "Rigid Onion."'

He's a strict, tough person with lots of hidden layers to his personality, so that fits. :)

[JRM]

Anonymous said...

I am Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.