Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Face-Lift 206


Guess the Plot

Resurrection

1. The devout are confused with the undead as zombies bent on world domination rise up at the same time as The Rapture. Will anyone get out alive?

2. A psychotic drug kingpin who is also the son of a U.S. senator and the leader of a religious cult that practices human sacrifice, kidnaps the daughter of a policewoman in order to sacrifice her on Easter morning.

3. Carolina Moops has twenty-four hours to jump-start her dead-end wardrobe. Will a crash makeover on a TV show breathe life into the corpse of her couture?

4. The Rolling Stones refuse to allow Death to get in the way of performing a final concert tour. The plan? Exhume Keith, hook him up to the amplifier, and wait for lightning to strike.

5. Jack knew he could get in trouble for emptying his bladder in a cemetery, but he never expected his urine to wake the dead.

6. Mary Magdalene's place in history is made more controversial by the discovery of papers showing that a life insurance company sued her for fraud after the stone was rolled back to reveal that Jesus wasn't dead.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

I offer you RESURRECTION, a completed psychological thriller of 125,000 words that plunges the reader into the extreme mind control found in the worlds of Palo Mayombe and Santería, occult religions rampant in South Texas. There are no supernatural events here, no spirit beasts, or things that go bump in the night; just the power of mental manipulation that leads to horrible crimes.

The novel is the story of LUKE OEDING, a rangy minister with a dark secret, [He's rangy? Meaning he:
is inclined to rove?
has long slender limbs?
has excellent range when he sings opera or plays shortstop?]
and NANCY NEFF, a deputy sheriff. [Who, apparently, isn't rangy.] The two fight to save her teenage daughter from the occult manipulations of JUAN OTERO,a psychotic crime leader who kidnaps her, and is the son of a U.S. senator..

I suspect readers of Dean Koontz and James Patterson might find this topic of interest.
My research does not find any novel using Palo Mayombe as a central theme, while Santería is featured in THE RELIGION, a novel published more than ten years ago. This book was the basis for The Believers, a motion picture starring Martin Sheen. [Santería is also featured in the film When the Spirits Dance Mambo.] [Interestingly, the author of The Religion doesn't make it into the query, but Martin Sheen does.] [My own research into Santería finds that there are millions of practitioners, so maybe this cult in Texas isn't indicative of the norm. Also, I learned that Santería, perhaps in an effort to one-up Christianity, has eleven commandments. Their extra one is Thou shalt not eat human flesh. I'm not sure which is more alarming: that the Christian God didn't command that people not eat human flesh, or that the Santería God felt the need to.]

In one documented case in South Texas a college student on spring break was kidnapped and sacrificed by a drug cult a few weeks before Easter. This was a story I covered for People magazine, and it sparked my interest in the machinations of the real occult world, not one of supernatural beasts and make believe.

I’m a seasoned journalist and published author of four non-fiction books ranging from biography to true crime. [In short, you're rangy.] One was a Literary Guild alternate selection, and another was a True Crime Book of the Month. My fiction work has been for stage and television. I have had two plays produced, and I’ve written for television as well as served as associate producer on a mini-series nominated for an Emmy. I have worked for Time, Life, and People, as well as the Dallas Times Herald and the San Antonio Light. [Let me know if your connections will get Novel Deviations reviewed in Time and People; I'll up the print run.]

I hope you find this proposal not only of interest, but groundbreaking, and thank you for taking the time to read this query and accompanying synopsis..

Cordially,


Revised Version

RESURRECTION is a 125,000-word psychological thriller that thrusts the reader into the extreme mind control found in the worlds of Palo Mayombe and Santería, occult religions rampant in South Texas. There are no supernatural events here, no spirit beasts, or things that go bump in the night; just the power of mental manipulation, leading to horrible crimes.

When a drug-addled teenager turns the annual Alamo Day Parade into a bloodbath, the tragedy plunges minister LUKE OEDING and deputy sheriff NANCY NEFF into a deadly race to save Nancy's daughter, CINDI, from the South Texas drug cult to which she belongs. Cindi, photographed blood-covered and screaming beside the body of a dead classmate, has become the media symbol of the tragedy--and the object of cult leader JUAN OTERO’s obsession. Frustrated when his impotent magic potions do not draw Cindi to him, Otero kidnaps her, sending Luke and Nancy into a race to find her--a race made all the more urgent because in a few hours it will be Easter morning, the traditional time for the Palo Mayombe ritual of human sacrifice.

My interest in the machinations of the occult world was sparked when I covered (for People magazine) a 19__ case in which a college student on spring break was kidnapped and sacrificed by a drug cult at Easter. I’m a seasoned journalist and published author of four non-fiction books ranging from biography to true crime. One was a Literary Guild alternate selection, and another was a True Crime Book of the Month. I have had two plays produced, and I’ve written for television as well as served as associate producer on a mini-series nominated for an Emmy. I have worked for Time, Life, the Dallas Times Herald and the San Antonio Light.

I hope you find this proposal of interest.

Cordially,


Notes

The query didn't have enough plot, no doubt because it was accompanied by a synopsis. I didn't find the synopsis clear enough, and lifted some of it for use in the query.

21 comments:

Dave said...

This sounds a lot like "The Serpent and the Rainbow" which as a book is very good at describing the Haitian zombie phenomena and as a movie is spectacular in its presentation of the voodoo heaven and hell. {expletive}, one of the final destination movies drops a severed arm on a picnic table as a joke at the end of one of their movies.

The problem is that the query isn't that exciting. EE gave you a start in his revision but your story has to beat the teen slashwer movies for horror. Simple human sacrifice for either cannibalism or use of body parts (as if that is ever simple or can be discussed lightly) goes back many years as a plot device. And chases to find the kidnapped are routine now. There has to be a greater horror.

The beloved Vincent Price called it the "face of absolute horror". In all those cheesy flicks he made, there was one point where the villian looked into the camera and revealed the face of absolute horror. It is the most startling and revealing point of the story.

You title the story "resurrection" and set it on Easter. Why? If you really believe in human sacrifice, then any day is OK, isn't it?
Resurrection means believe my heart that I have not lived in vain or been lost to the light. hint. hint.

GutterBall said...

Aww...you took out the rangy part.

Unfortunately, I would probably pick up this book to at least peruse in the store. It's about grisly religious murder? Oh, yeah. I'm in the bag.

True crime? Not so much. Blood-bath with creepy religious overtones? Sign me up. But only if it's a rangy blood-bath.

I'm gonna see how many times I can work that word into conversation at work tomorrow. It just stays with me.

xiqay said...

Loved fake plot # 3 (name sounded like one of mine, but the story was not). #6 was charming, too.

Author,
Wow! EE's revision is fantastic. Use it.

EE, I thought you created that whacked out plot, but it's the real deal.

This story is totally fascinating to me. (I didn't understand from the query that the girl is the policewoman's daughter--got that only from the blurb.)

Good luck, author, in finding a publisher. I don't usually read this kind of book, but I am interested in this one.

Bernita said...

Sounds like a fictionalization of the Matamoros murders and the narcosatanista Adolofo de Jesus Constanzo.

Anonymous said...

#4 has already been done. It probably would make a good book, though.

I think I would read this even though it seems long. I am reading "A Prayer for Owen Meany" now and I'm sure it will take me 2 months to finish. I think a non-fiction book about this would also be a good read. -JTC

heidi said...

Frustrated when his impotent magic potions do not draw Cindi to him...

That frustrates many a man.

Anonymous said...

The first "Guess The Plot" sample sounds hilarious. I'd read it.

writtenwyrdd said...

Let me preface my comments by saying I get riled at the tendency for mainstream media to distort alternative religions and place them in a falsely negative light. It seems even worse to me when it's done as the hook for a novel. So read my comments with my bias in mind.

As presented, your plot sounds like you are going to sensationalize a valid religion and distort their religious practices, placing them in a bad light--yet again--without giving a fair and balanced view of the community. This is because you are 1) using law enforcement as the POV characters, and 2) show no indication of any positive characters within the community who work to assist the cop in solving the crimes.

To improve the book, perhaps consider having a secondary character with which the cop gets involved (budding friendship?) and have the cop have some emotional growth/understanding of the community so that he/she evolves to be less of an outsider during the solving of the case. To that end, perhaps make the victim not be related to the cop. It really isn't necessary, anyhow; cops don't like psycho killers who do horribly gruesome things to their victims. The cop needs an entrée into the society, and personal growth will add to the depth of the novel.

The religious angle in itself isn't bad, crazies and cults are great fodder for stories. But, honestly, I would not read this. I am sick of books that distort alternative religions and essentially paint them as crazy or evil. They are just different. And I don't see how your story ISN'T going to do just that unless you change it significantly.

Bernita said...

Sounds more like Schutze's "Caldron of Blood" to me, Dave.

Bernita said...

Inclined to agree with you,
Writtenwyrd.
A destructive cult is one thing, an alternative religion is quite another.

Zombie Deathfish said...

I really wanted it to be either #1 or #5. What's a shark gotta do to get some zombie literature these days?

I do think the premise sounds interesting, but the query letter lost me. I'm not interested in Martin Sheen or who you suspect may like the book. I'm interested in the plot, and I'm not entirely sure what the plot is.

Anonymous said...

Martin Sheen turns just about everyone off.

batgirl said...

#1 is the absolute best. Disappointed that it wasn't the one. Any minion going to write it?

The cool thing about The Serpent and the Rainbow is that it presented Santeria relatively without sensationalism. It was the religion that the local characters believed in, not a wacky cult. There were definitely evil people in the story, but not because of their beliefs. This query looks like straight sensationalism and xenophobia, but that sells, so it's probably the way to go.

ello said...

EE's revision is great, made it much more interesting.

As an aside, might I interject that my favorite part of this blog is EE's comments on these queries. The new beginning continuations are hit or miss. Quite frankly, I skip over them as the novelty has completely faded for me and the last truly funny one was in the summer. The query letters crack me up every single time plus I learn from them. Just my two cents.

~Nancy said...

#1 - Zombies!
#3 - Moops! (Seinfeld will get that, hopefully.)

Anyway, the premise, from what I could understand, sounded interesting, but it was hard to follow what was going on. I think EE did a good job revising.

I think I'd follow what writtenwyrrd has suggested:

...perhaps consider having a secondary character with which the cop gets involved (budding friendship?) and have the cop have some emotional growth/understanding of the community so that he/she evolves to be less of an outsider during the solving of the case.

I'd drop the movie stuff entirely.

~JerseyGirl

Ashni said...

If it makes everyone feel better, I suspect that books that piss off Christians sell a lot better than books that piss off Santeria. Their pissiness gets more press coverage, I suppose.

I'm with Writtenwiyrrd, even if my irritation will neither stop the book from being sold nor turn it into a bestseller.

Anonymous said...

ello said... What he said.

Personally, I like the new beginnings. Yeah, the continuations are hit and miss, but different ones hit differently people, differently. EE's comments in the queries almost always hit the mark, but queries in themselves don't excite me all that much. I do like seeing what / how other people are writing, and the comments are always either informative or entertaining (though critique naturally tends to lean to the negative rather than the positive).

It's kind of nice to have the variety as well, of both queries and beginnings.

Migh turn out to be a moot point, however, if more people don't send openings soon.

writtenwyrdd said...

Hey, I will be the first to defend the Author's right to write such a book, but I don't have to buy it, either.

I honestly think that the basic plot as shown in the post is too weak to hold up well, but it could be beefed up and scare the daylights out of people, too. Sicko killer stories sell. (Just not to me, even if they do star mainstream religious practitioners.)

Anonymous said...

#4 and #6 are officially my favorite Guess the Plots ever. EVER I TELL YOU.

I thought this sounded pretty interesting, and EE's version was great. Good luck, author.

Shelby said...

I thought this sounded great (EE's revision) but I agree with writtenwyrdd in that I think showing a bit of the reasonable side of these religions would give the novel more depth and meaning than just a slash and burn, cliche'd telling.

Anonymous said...

Where the heck did you get the idea to name the main characters LUKE OEDING and NANCY NEFF? It's freakin me out a little because, I'm Luke Oeding, and one of the schools I went to had Neff in the name. Any chance you can change the names?