Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Guess the Plot
The Orphan Pearl
1. The rutabaga, the radish, the potato, and the beet—orphans all—eyed the newcomer askance. In the world of parentless vegetables it verged on rude to claim a false identity. Silently they agreed to reject the little white sphere until it accepted its full name—the Orphan Pearl Onion.
2. A travel writer and a bandit's widow are thrown together on a sea voyage to London. But the widow has secrets that could endanger their lives. Also, a concubine.
3. After their parents are killed in a freak jewelry accident, Pearl leaves her sisters Sapphire, Amethyst, Ruby, Topaz and Geraldine to follow her fortune in a Seattle-based grunge band.
4. In this charming children's fable, global warming and wicked oystermen wipe out Pearl's family. The plucky orphan makes her way to Washington, D.C., to lobby against over-fishing, with unexpected results. Includes Rush Limbaugh's recipe for oyster stew.
5. An albino toddler washes up on the beach after a devastating storm in 1904 Okinawa. An aging fisherman suffers ostracism and prejudice when he raises her as his own child. Can she redeem his memory as an adult by saving the village?
6. A jealous author time-travels to Hillsboro, West Virginia. His mission: the murder of Absalom and Caroline Sydenstricker. Will the ploy successfully prevent the birth and writing career of their daughter, Ms. Buck?
Dear Correct Name Correctly Spelled,
You may be interested in my historical romance The Orphan Pearl, complete at 84,000 words. I've integrated Middle Eastern themes into a traditional historical romance set in England, 1838, putting a new angle on an old favorite.
Lady Diotima Spark [Diotima?] steps aboard the Cordelia [Maybe it should be Lady Cordelia Spark steps aboard the Diotima.] [Admit it, you came up with that name after writing the phrase, What an idiot I married, and then eliminating the early and late letters. Now you have an amusing secret your husband is too dim to ever catch on to--until your book gets published and you tell the story on Oprah.] determined to stay put in her windowless cabin from the moment the ship sets sail in Constantinople until it docks in London. She can't let her pursuers find out where she's going, [If her pursuers are on the Cordelia, they probably know where she's going. If they aren't, what's the problem?] and she can't let her family and friends in England find out where she's been. If it were discovered that the duke's daughter and the bandit's widow are one and the same, it would mean social ruin at best and violent death at worst.
Friend: Where've you been, Diotima?
Friend: Then . . . you must be . . . the bandit's widow!
Diotima: I'm ruined.
Friend: Worse. I'm arranging to have you drawn and quartered.
But the journey is long, Diotima is restless, and late one night she decides to take a walk on deck. When she has a brief but intriguing encounter with a man, she knows that her safety is compromised [Because this complete stranger is going to get a message to her pursuers? Does he know who she is? Why is she in more danger from this guy than from whoever brings her her food, or from whoever showed her to her cabin?] but she has to see him again.
It doesn't take travel writer Luke Benton long to realize that he's met the woman of his dreams. She's like him: a wanderer, a risk-taker, a thinker. She won't tell him her name, who her family is or where she's from [So again I ask, how is her safety compromised?] – although she gives him her understanding, [I don't know what that means, delete it.] and even her body, [I know what that means.] she will not share her secrets. [A woman who gives her body without blabbing her secrets would be the most popular woman on the ship. If anyone could pronounce her name.] When Luke wakes up one morning to find the Cordelia docked in London harbor and his lover vanished without a trace, he vows to find her again.
But reunion is only the first step along the road to a happy ending. [Replace the rest of this paragraph with the next paragraph.] Luke has to re-think all of his assumptions when he unearths Diotima's background – in England, and abroad. Hero worship unbalances their relationship when Diotima realizes that Luke is the author of books that had a profound effect on her life.
Even as the two grow closer, they work at cross-purposes. Diotima's attempts to thwart her pursuers plunge her deeper into danger. A crucial mistranslation prevents Luke from protecting Diotima when she needs it most. An old flame, a former concubine, and a diplomat's son throw further obstacles in the way of true love – although only one of the three is a villain.
I hold a master's degree from Harvard University, as well as a BA from Columbia University. I have the research skills to write historical novels accurately incorporating Ottoman history, the Great Game, and the true history of the legendary, but lost, Orphan Pearl. [Apparently you assume the reader knows what these last two things are.] I've traveled extensively in the Middle East, so I know the lay of the land and something of its flavor.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
I got the impression the book starts as she leaves Constantinople, so I'm not sure how important it is to be familiar with the lay of the land--the land being the Middle East. You say you've integrated Middle Eastern themes into the story, but you don't elaborate on this.
Who are her pursuers, why are they pursuing her, and why are you keeping it a secret?
If this is based on the "legendary Orphan Pearl," you might mention it up front.
If it isn't too long now, it will be after you answer a few of the nagging questions, but with a little work you'll get it down to the most important page worth of information. Cutting the plot description after "...he vows to find her again," wouldn't cost you much.