Thursday, November 02, 2006

Face-Lift 226


Guess the Plot

Missing Element

1. Roger Groobney's fantastic new murder mystery was rejected by every agent in the known universe, all with the same hand-written message: "It's gotta have a murder in it, Roger!"

2. Yes, we have no beryllium; we have no beryllium today.

3. With a supply of deuterium from a North Korean friend, Physicist Elmo Lurp agrees to build a nuclear device in the basement of his apartment building. But he realizes his need for a more sophisticated laboratory when he discovers his wife has used all the heavy water for the laundry.

4. In this nineteenth book in the Miss Amelia Pettipants series, the doughty spinster discovers why none of the village's electric stoves are working.

5. Teaching the Periodic Table by each day removing one element from the laboratory and letting the students discover the Missing Element was not such a good idea after all. Professor Eavull regrets starting with oxygen, thereby asphyxiating the entire class.

6. Dmitri warned his wife about not tidying up his lab, but Mrs. Mendeleev's fanatical cleanliness knows no bounds. Now Dmitri has to start from scratch--unless he can get to the dumpster before the garbagemen do.


Original Version

Dear (Agent’s Name Spelled Correctly)

(One sentence explaining why I’m querying this particular agent … liked a book one of his or her authors wrote, recommended by a friend, met at a conference, [have already tried all the agents who aren't on the 20 worst agents list,] etc.)

In MISSING ELEMENT, an Air Force officer turned corporate trouble-shooter uncovers an illicit link between an American weapons firm and an African dictator planning to foment genocide to protect an illegal but highly profitable venture. To prevent the killings, Dr. Eleanor Swan must team with an FBI agent, despite her antipathy toward the Bureau since it investigated her father’s supposed death 20 years earlier and branded him a traitor. [Is Eleanor Swan the corporate trouble-shooter? If not, who is she? If so, I'd stick her name in the first sentence, right after the title, so it's clear.] [Why would she be involved in preventing this genocide? Wouldn't she just report the illicit link to the authorities and bow out?]

[Eleanor: I've discovered that an American weapons manufacturer is working with an African dictator on a project that will foment genocide.

FBI: Hmm, okay we'll provide one agent to eliminate this threat to the lives of millions.

Eleanor: Only one?

FBI: Plus you. Who did you say you were again?]

Four women with father issues drive the plot. The National Security Council staffer wants revenge on her father. [Who did what?] The Médecins Sans Frontières doctor has given her life to medicine since her dad’s death. The African President’s daughter must choose between loyalty to her father and her country. And Eleanor Swan must live down her father’s notorious past to derail the conspiracy that stretches from the deserts of East Africa to the highest offices of the U.S. government. [This sounds more like a job for the NSC staffer (or Superman) than the corporate trouble-shooter. Does Eleanor go to Africa? How can she hope to succeed against such powerful entities? I'm more interested in what the plot is than in who drives it.] Two will die. One will lose her career. One will save a nation.

I spent twenty years as an Air Force intelligence officer and am published in book-length non-fiction (Title and Publisher of book, 2003). I speak to a variety of forums on military topics including women in the military, ethics, and leadership.

MISSING ELEMENT is a 90,000-word geopolitical thriller. May I send you sample chapters and a synopsis or the complete manuscript?


[My title, MISSING ELEMENT, refers both to my protagonist’s missing father and to beryllium, a strategic element necessary for making various parts of nuclear weapons. In the novel, an American weapons manufacturer is mining beryllium illegally in a fictional African country and selling it to the Iranians.]


Notes

An additional paragraph between your plot and character paragraphs would be helpful in clarifying the issues I've brought up. More facts about the bad guys' plot (the information on where you got your title is a good start) and the good guys' plan (presumably Eleanor calls in a favor from her days in the Air Force, and arranges B-52 carpet bombings of the beryllium mine, the American weapons manufacturer, and Iran) would be a major improvement.

14 comments:

HawkOwl said...

Is it just me, or is there no Guess-the-plot that's the actual plot?

I wouldn't read this, but the genre sells. Good luck with it.

Kate Thornton said...

Hawkowl - I don't see the real GTP either!

Kate Thornton said...

Oh - *beryllium*!! It's the beryllium GTP! Who'd a thunk it?

GutterBall said...

Great. Now I'm gonna be humming the "no beryllium" theme all day. Juuuuust great.

Anonymous said...

By golly, I've just read all the GTP's. They're all brilliant and funny. When that happens, it usually means none are anything like the REAL plot. Which is the real GTP?

jfk said...

And here I thought GTP#2 was really clever thinking on someone's part. (Actually, I do think it is; I like how it relates to the title, which is why I think it's a shame that information wasn't in the query.)

I also want to read GTP#5. I've known a few professors who probably would asphyxiate the class given half the chance. The feeling was mutual :)

Oh yeah, there's a query here.

I had some difficulty finding a plot in here. The characters are there, but I'm not entirely sure what they're planning to do. A few more names would help in that regard. (Alternatively, I could try to lengthen my attention span ... what was I talking about again?)

FWIW, I hardly ever read this genre.

My favourite part of the query was this:

Two will die. One will lose her career. One will save a nation.

That alone makes me want to read this. I find it's quite rare for major characters to die, so that's unusual enough to attract my attention. And it tells me something about the story without ruining it, because I still don't know which characters die. (I'm betting on the President's daughter. No reason.)

This sentence though, I would cut:

Four women with father issues drive the plot.

Once these four characters are mentioned, I assume they're important to the plot. (A dangerous assumption perhaps, but there.)

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Usually the biggest problem with books involving the Air Force (or any military branch) is the author knows nothing about the military and end up making them (us) look like inept idiots instead of the top notch professionals we are. If this author can lend credibility to the military side of the story it may be worth reading. Although having worked with intel folks for the last 2.5 years I'm still not sure the author would know anything about the real AF (Just kidding. heh, heh.) -JTC

Anonymous said...

I thought the whole appeal of the dictator gig was so you could make everything you want to do legal with no need to get the lame approval of some wimpy congress. So why would any enterprise or genocide the dictator wants to engage in be "illegal"? He's the creep in charge, he's writing the rules, he just kills the opposition, doesn't he? Or else he's not villianous enough to make to make it as a Hollywood dictator. Go read about 20th century Uganda again. The crimes of Enron are trivial in comparison. Your description of the "profitable enterprise" needs to be more visceral in order for it to be more repungent than genocide, which sounds here like some sort of secondary concern.

Dave said...

Personally, I like the Periodic Table of Rejected Elements at
http://periodictable.com/pages/AAE_RejectedPT.html

#34 is Xena, and #37 is celinedion

Dave said...

But seriously folks, no more funny elements in periodically twisted tables.

The book "centers on 4 women with father issues" and missing element serves both the missing beryllium and missing fathers in their lives.

Where is the focus? On the geopolitical thriller or on the tragedies in the four women's lives. That is quite a chunk to handle in a novel.
Think of it, four major characters with lives, a villian and several minor characters. What do you focus on?

Anonymous said...

What Dave said:
http://periodictable.com/pages/AAE_RejectedPT.html

Best, biggest, moistest laugh of the week. Thanx.

-Parodist of Pulp

Malia said...

Is it a good thing to be killing off two of your main characters? I could be wrong, but I thought that it's a no-no to kill characters the reader has become invested in...unless they're the bad guys. ;)

GutterBall said...

Malia, if that were the case, Shakespeare would have never been read. It's only taboo to kill a main character in romance, and that's only because the current definition of romance must end Happily Ever After.

Guh.

Author said...

Dear :



Dr. Eleanor Swan, an Air Force cop who fled the military for corporate life after her actions in a shoot-out cost a sergeant her leg, receives a package from her cousin Robert two days after his murder. It contains schematics for a faulty microwave weapon and a map only she can decipher. Reluctantly accepting the mission Robert handed her from the grave, Eleanor must team with an FBI agent, despite her antipathy toward the Bureau since it investigated her father’s supposed death 20 years earlier and branded him a traitor. Eleanor and Special Agent Guy Archer travel to the Horn of Africa to uncover the link between the CEO of an American weapons firm and a dictator planning to foment genocide to protect an illegal venture. The men are mining beryllium, a strategic mineral necessary for the manufacture of nuclear weapons, and selling it to the Iranians. They’ll do anything--including assassinate a key political figure to incite genocide--to maintain control of the mine.



Eleanor’s friendship with three women (all of whom have complicated father-daughter relationships) underlies the plot. The National Security Council staffer (who arranged for the export of the microwave weapons to Africa) wants revenge on her father for causing her mother’s death. The Médecins Sans Frontières doctor (who uncovered evidence of beryllium poisoning in African workers) has given her life to medicine since her dad contracted Lou Gehrig’s disease. The African President’s daughter (who stumbles on the assassination plot) must choose between loyalty to her father and her country. And Eleanor Swan must live down her father’s notorious past and her own failure in a crisis to derail the conspiracy that stretches from the deserts of East Africa to the highest offices of the U.S. government. Two will die. One will lose her career. One will save a nation.



I spent twenty years as an Air Force intelligence officer and am published in book-length non-fiction (Winning the Retention Wars, Air University Press, 2003). I speak to a variety of forums on military topics including women in the military, ethics, and leadership.



May I send you sample chapters or the completed, 95,000-word manuscript of MISSING ELEMENT?