Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Face-Lift 308

Guess the Plot

The Blue Gemstone

1. The Key Keepers use the Blue Gemstone to open the door to an alternate universe in which they meet Toots, who sends them to Alaska to recover another gemstone. But can they complete the mission without being captured by shape shifters and sacrificed to the god Zendu?

2. A pearl for Christmas, a ruby for Valentine's, and an emerald for her birthday. Sue's husband sure is spending hard to assure her that his cheating days are over. But will the sparkle of her Columbus Day sapphire blind her to his sudden increase in "business trips"?

3. Jeweler Rocco Testadura can sense the emotions of every stone that he sets, knowing that happy jewels make for happy customers. Can he find a way to cheer up the blue gemstone, before it drives a client to despair and suicide?

4. Mallory thinks that she has found the man of her dreams, until Bill's romantic moonlit proposal turns into Mallory's nightmare. A sapphire? What, is he kidding?

5. When Shannon starts work as a waitress in The Blue Gemstone, the swankiest restaurant in town, she has no idea she's really stumbled into a front for the werewolf crime lords known as the Lupens.

6. Career burglar Snarfi has just four days to steal The Blue Gemstone from the dragon Gryk'ka, or the evil emperor will kill Snarfi's mother. There's only one problem: Snarfi is colorblind. Stock characters include a rebellious princess, a buffoonish wizard, and a curmudgeonly dwarf. Also, a snake with legs.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I read on your blog that you represented a gem of wisdom, "Why You Don't Get Published," and I knew immediately that you were the editor for me. [Say no more. A contract will be in the mail within the hour.]

"The Blue Gemstone," is a Middle School Fantasy, complete at 71,000 words.

On the way home from a local swimming hole, cousins, Jake and Libby Marks, [Already I can tell this is going to be one of those quaint old-timey stories I love, the kind that bring back memories of reading Tom Sawyer.] meet an alien from an alternate universe. The alien, a member of a race of healers, gives the children a sapphire stone, a key that opens doors to other realities. [Oh well. I suppose if Mark Twain were alive today he'd be writing books like Huckleberry Finn XCII: The Shadow Creatures of Lorkha Tau.]

Intrigued, Jake and Libby visit the alien's world where they meet the Honorable Major Toots, the president of the healers. Toots explains that they are Key Keepers, and warns them to protect their gemstone from falling into the hands of the shape shifters. Then, Toots tells them that their great, great, great Grandpa Willie--who's supposed to be dead--is in trouble.

According to Toots, Willie is alive. [I inferred that from the previous sentence.] The shifters have stolen his gemstone, trapping him on a mirror world in Alaska. Jake and Libby must rescue Grandpa Willie, and recover his stolen stone. Toots gives the children two magic computers--the size of a cell phone--to help them.

Rescuing Grandpa is the easy part. [The hard part is reading the map of Alaska on the four-centimeter-square monitors that come with the computers. That and loading a 115-year-old guy onto a dogsled without breaking his hips.] Stealing the gemstone back from the shifters is another matter entirely.

At first, it was fun. An adventure. But Jake and Libby learn there is more at stake than Grandpa's gemstone. Maddas, the evil dictator of the shape shifters, ["Maddas" makes me think of a fabric; it would sound more like an evil dictator spelled backwards.] believes Jake and Libby are THE TWINS. [TWINS? But they're cousins! Identical cousins. And you can lose your mind . . . when cousins . . . are two of a kind.] He wants to kidnap the children, take them to Amusa, and sacrifice them to his god, Zendu.

[A paragraph on my two short story sales] [A sentence will do.]

Thank you in advance for reading my query,


It seems odd that the shape shifters would hole up in Alaska, given that they have access to numerous realities.

Do these kids have families who expect them home for dinner?

Is "Toots" pronounced like in, "Hey toots, need an editor for that book?" Or does it rhyme with "prostitutes"?

Gemstone is kind of general. You claim it's a sapphire, why not call it the mystic sapphire of Lorkha Tau, instead of the blue gemstone?

Not sure what a magical computer can do that a normal one can't, but if it's magic, it might as well be a magic cell phone or a magic acorn as a computer. In any case, I'd drop the magic computer, and rewrite everything after that. From there on it's a list of choppy sentences with little life. We need more than a series of events; make us care about the characters. There's a lot of fantastical stuff in the book, but maybe a bit less in the query would be better.


Anonymous said...

I'm not an expert in kid lit categories, but I don't think "middle school" is one. I've seen "middle grade" as the term for stuff aimed primarily at 9-12 year olds, followed by the "young adult" category.

This description doesn't make the story seem very outstanding, for reasons identified by EE. Why use Alaska? I don't see the reason. Why a "magic" computer?

Your biggest problem is this -- brother and sister going into an alternative reality to save grandpa from diabolical wizardry is the plot of one of the Spy Kids movies and I don't think your story outdoes the treatment Robert Rodriguez gave it, or adds anything of interest he didn't use, so I'd pass on this as a been there, done that thing.

Bernita said...

When I saw THE TWINS - all I could think of was "The Bobbsey Twins Go to Alaska" - and lost it.

Theo Katz said...

I suppose if Mark Twain were alive today he'd be writing books like Huckleberry Finn XCII: The Shadow Creatures of Lorkha Tau.

First I laughed, then I went off and drank myself to death.

pacatrue said...

Nice, Patty Duke allusion, EE. I think next up we need a little Donna Reed Show.

Author, I think you need to find a different way to say that they must go to Alaska. The current way sounds like it's a normal sort of slam of a neighbor, like a Miss Snark saying she's going to have to travel to a parallel universe known as New Jersey.

The overall plot sounds fun to me.

Unfortunately, I'm quite busy reading Anna Karenina LXII: Anna and the Death Zombie of Nellor.

whitemouse said...

The plot doesn't sound very fresh; quests for magic items and portals into other worlds have been done to death. The story will have to be absolutely great to catch an agent/editor's eye in spite of the tired ideas, and if it is absolutely great, then you reallyreallyreally need to make your query reflect that.

I'd suggest figuring out what makes your novel very different from what's out there, and then really focus the query on that. Downplay the bits that might sound cliched.

The Maddas/Saddam thing had me snickering pretty hard after EE pointed it out. Most people wouldn't spot that (it takes a certain kind of brain to see anagrams and backward-spellings), but for those people that do, the villain's name might be a bit groan-inducing.

Rei said...

Ha. Maddas, the evil dictator. What a laugh riot.

Will your next book have a character named H'sub, the noble hero of the Aciremans?

Anonymous said...

Hi Author,

I agree with Paca that the plot sounds fun. From thinking about what my kids read in middle school (one is now in 9th grade, so it's a fresh memory), this seems more like something they would have read in the 5th grade or so.

EE, I hadn't thought of madras plaid or Patty Duke in a while. You've got quite a memory going on.


Anonymous said...

Not sure what a magical computer can do that a normal one can't...

You've never used a Mac, then?

Isn't reading a map of Alaska pretty much like reading a blank sheet of paper? And anyway, how do they get the outside all crispy and warm while the inside stays cold and creamy?

Xenith said...

Toots & Willie? I hope it's not supposed to be a serious story

Anonymous said...

Hi all--

This is my query. Thanks for the comments. I posted this rough draft so I could get some direction before I sat down and got serious. I'll have to work on what makes my story different and play down the portal and the other things that seem cliches (like whitemouse suggested).

Anonymous 1:06--
I meant to say Middle Grade, sorry for the confusion.
And I've never seen Spy Kids. In fact, I had to google it to see what you were talking about. So, I'm not concerned that my kids rescuing their grandpa will be anyway close to Mr. Rodriguez's film.

The Saddam/Maddas thing is funny. I was going for Mad Ass orginally. I guess my evil dude needs a name change.

Thanks again to everyone who commented--


Anonymous said...


A special thanks to you. I know you blog because you enjoy it, and it's fun (and an outlet). I realized, when I posted my first attempt at a query letter, that you'd have fun with it. That's okay. What I appreciate is the constructive criticism you offered. The query letter for first time writers is a scary thing. And, I wrote a PORTAL story!

So, thank you. Thank you for the time you spend, thank you for doing this for us.



Zombie Deathfish said...

Aww, I wanted it to be #5. Who submitted that one? Can I have it?

Khazar-khum said...

Zombie Deathfish--

It's mine. You're welcome to it!