Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Face-Lift 327


Guess the Plot

Madcat Mountain

1. Jeremy has always loved theme parks, and now he designs rollercoasters that push the boundaries of physics. But when six people die of fright on the first run of Jeremy's new coaster, Madcat Mountain, he wonders if he's finally gone too far.

2. Creating a super computer out of a Nintendo gamepad and an old toaster, Dr. Kilsmore takes refuge atop Madcat Mountain where he hatches plans for a sonic-oscillating-radon-glow gun, which he--surprisingly--uses for good.

3. Toby Tupple, her long-lost twin brother Otter, a prostitute, a posse of natives riding carnivorous reptiles, and Pauley Whipstaff are all that stands between the good people of Steam Canyon and the huge demon trapped under . . . Madcat Mountain. Also, the ghost of a dead god.

4. Together Hillary Clinton and her giant pants have come a long way, but even she's at a loss for words when she encounters a mound of feline carcasses while on her way to kiss some ass at Rutgers.

5. It was a dangerous place for any gorilla less than Alpha. Grabby woke from his sex-induced stupor, slogged over to his usual hang-out, pounded his chest, and then pounded the bartender. The place erupted into mayhem. The only thing that could stop the gorilla warfare was big, hairy, mad as hell . . . and headed up the other side of the Mountain.

6. A spelling error in the travel guide sends Rita Blanchette to Madcat, an extreme skiing resort, instead of Mudcat, a fishing festival. Will she find romance, or broken bones? Also, a hunky Swedish ski instructor.


Original Version

Dear [Miss Snark],

After reading [Letters to Mr. Clooney], [Poodles & Gin], and viewing your website, I thought you might be interested in representing my novel, Madcat Mountain. It's a stand-alone fantasy/western completed at 134,000 words. [That's kind of long for a western. The bad guys ride in and terrorize the town, the Sheriff rounds up a posse of the only people who aren't afraid to leave their rooms--an old man, a teenager, and a woman whose husband the bad guys shot--and despite overwhelming odds, they win the day, with the old man sacrificing himself to save the teenager. 65,000 words, tops. Wait, it's a fantasy western. Make that zombies terrorizing the town. 75,000 words.] If you're interested, the world proved too rich for only one book, and I have two more in the works. [I was't sure at first whether you meant the world we live in or the world in your book. Also, the first phrase doesn't belong there.]

The biggest damn demon alive is trapped under Madcat Mountain, but the construction of a new railroad tunnel is about to bust him loose. His demon minions are using powers of illusion to infiltrate and control the railroad company and even the military. Most folk don't know there's a supernatural mess in the Redlands, and even fewer have the moxie to clean it up. [That last sentence can be dropped.] Enter bounty hunter Toby "Two-Penny" Tuttle. She's happy chasing bank robbers and winning bar brawls, but a mysterious summons from her pa hints about the demon infestation in Steam Canyon.

As Toby heads west, she meets her long-lost twin brother Otter ["Four Bits" Tuttle], who was raised by [otters.] their mother with the Arzaccian natives in the north. Otter confronts Toby with the demon's imminent escape, the secret of their birth, and Toby's own dormant powers. Toby is skeptical about all of it—until she gets a chance to shoot one of the demons right in its smug, toothy face, and realizes her brother isn't plum crazy after all. [While people do declare other people plum crazy, you can pull out the plum when declaring they aren't crazy--unless, of course, you're declaring that they aren't crazy about plums.] With all the benevolent gods long dead, it's up to Toby and Otter to keep the demon from glutting on humanity like a fox in a hen house. [I saw a fox glutting on humanity in a hen house once. It wasn't pretty.] The railroad's physical defenses are too good for the twins to get close enough to use their psychic demon-smacking skills, so they enlist the help of their friends: ex-outlaw Pauley Whipstaff; the disillusioned Deputy Boyd; a fugitive prostitute called ["Five Dollars"] Juniper; the infamous Doornail Gang; and a posse of natives mounted on their pet carnivorous reptiles. [What a madcap crew. Did you consider calling it Madcap Mountain? ] [No need to identify everyone who lends a hand.]

Toby and Otter must work together to enact a brilliant strategy devised by the ghost of a dead Arzaccian god, [You said it was up to Toby and Otter because all the benevolent gods were long dead. Apparently being dead isn't that big a drawback.] as well as dish out some old-fashioned ass-kickin', to save every soul in the Redlands from being devoured.

A partial or the full manuscript are available upon request. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Regards,


Revised Version

The biggest demon alive is trapped under Madcat Mountain, but the construction of a new railroad tunnel is about to bust him loose. His demon minions are using powers of illusion to infiltrate and control the railroad company and even the military. Enter bounty hunter Toby "Two-Penny" Tuttle. She was happily chasing bank robbers and winning bar brawls when she received a mysterious summons from her pa, hinting about a demon infestation in Steam Canyon.

As Toby heads west, she meets her long-lost twin brother Otter, who was raised by their mother with the Arzaccian natives in the north. Otter apprises Toby of the demon's imminent escape--and of Toby's own dormant powers. Toby is skeptical, until she gets a chance to shoot one of the demons right in its smug, toothy face, and realizes her brother isn't crazy after all.

With all the benevolent gods long dead, it's up to Toby and Otter to prevent the demon from devouring every soul in the Redlands. They enlist the help of the infamous Doornail Gang; a posse of natives mounted on carnivorous reptiles; and the ghost of a dead Arzaccian god. Now, can they get past the military troops and use their psychic demon-smacking skills--before it's too late?

Madcat Mountain is a stand-alone fantasy/western completed at 134,000 words, and I have two more books in the works, set in the same world. A partial or the full manuscript is available upon request. Thank you.

Regards,


Notes

If Otter's from up north, and Toby's from back east, how do they have all these ex-outlaw, prostitute, gang, etc. friends in Steam Canyon?

The second paragraph was a decent hook, and the first was blah, so I did a bit of rearranging.

Not clear how Otter was "long-lost" if he was with his mother. Or how they know the demon is a him rather than a her, if it's under a mountain.

I was going to put up a link to the same otter cam I used in an earlier query, but the otters are seldom on camera, so try this link to the penguin cam. If there aren't any penguins, you can navigate to other cams--if it's between 7AM and 7PM Pacific time.

16 comments:

pacatrue said...

So if I saw back cover copy basically like this in the store, I'd guess that the novel wouldn't work, but I'd be interested enough to open it up and read a couple pages. In other words, I find it hard to believe you can pull it off, but I'm hooked enough by the query to find out if you somehow did. So good job in my book.

Which part does Christopher Lloyd play?

As a note, aren't most reptiles carnivorous? I know it's usually bugs and stuff, but I can't think of tons of herbivore reptiles....

And you were in fine form on this one, EE, particularly with the Western plot.

Anonymous said...

Is Toby a girl's name? I didn't even know fantasy western is a genre, but the plot looks exciting. And Otter I don't like either.

Also, "long-lost twin" sounds quite, umm, well, cliche. Maybe reword it. I would suggest making them not twins, just siblings.

The novel sounds fun from your hook.

writtenwyrdd said...

This sounds quirky with screwball characters, and that's something I'd like to read. I agree with EE's start on the revision. But I think you need to expound on what the mysterious message is, and/or why it isn't strange he's hinting about demons in the mountain.

Sounds interesting. It's good to know that some Western fantasies are good, *clean* fun!

phoenix said...

I almost posted anonymously (Well, OK, you get my drift) because, yes, I'm going to say it: I disagree with EE. Not totally, mind you. But I think the revise, while maybe a little clearer, takes the punch and voice out of the query. And that is a huge part of this one's appeal.

That first paragraph of the original -- yeah, rearrange away. Paragraph two: OK, to lose word count, ditch the sentence EE indicates.

Paragraph three could use a good tightening, like when you're trying to saddle your horse and he's holding his breath, then you knee him so he exhales and you haul that cinch up another notch or two so the saddle don't fall off.

Maybe cut mention of the gods, the railroad's physical defenses (but keep "psychic demon-smacking skills"!), and some of the gang. Maybe use "estranged" brother? And if you keep the reptiles in the query, maybe refer to them as "lizards" instead, and not "pets" - would you say mounted on pet horses or pet alpacas?

OK, you can put what's left of the gang in paragraph 4 as EE suggests. "It's up to Toby and Otter -- with the help of [gang members] -- to dish out some old-fashioned ass-kickin' to save every soul in the Redlands." But ya gotta keep "ass-kickin'" if that's the spirit of the book.

Sounds like a fun read! I bet you get lots of requests for partials just so agents can see if you actually pull the voice off in the story as well. And if the market for western fantasies suddenly breaks wide open, you're golden.

Minion 828 said...

I have to disagree with phoenix about the punch and voice being gone. EE could have changed "bust him loose" to "set him free." He could have changed "pa" to "father." He could have changed "folk" to "people." He could have taken out the demon's "smug, toothy face."

You suggest keeping "psychic demon-smacking skills", and getting rid of "pet." EE's version does both.

As for the ass-kicking, their powers are mental. Psychic demon smacking is more believable than kicking the ass of the world's biggest living demon. This is not a metaphoric ass-kicking; it's an "old fashioned" ass kicking, which means physically beating him up.

I'm more inclined to wonder whether the voice is appropriate. It's the right voice for a comedic western, which this may be, but it's possible the book is more serious, what with the threat of demons devouring people's souls. You may not want to give the impression it's a light fantasy if it's a dark fantasy.

stick and move said...

"I almost posted anonymously (Well, OK, you get my drift) because, yes, I'm going to say it: I disagree with EE."

It's been a pleasure, Phoenix... You can still drop by and read the posts...

Lauren said...

Is anyone else with me that they wanted to see a novel about plot #1?

And on a side note, yes, I know a girl named Toby.

phoe...no wait... anonymoose said...

Well, Stick and Move, it was a fun ride while it lasted.

Maybe I can still slip the odd comment by when EE isn't paying attention to his email...

Dave said...

I actually thought GTP #3 was a great joke until I realized that it was the only plot substantial enough for a novel.

Do the carnivorous reptiles have cute names? Like - Allie and Crocker? I just resurrected a love scene for a reptile from one of my stories for EE's Blog, Are these perhaps bipedal reptiles?

If I read this on the back cover of a book, I would think it's YA. The last thing I read liek this for adults was Hitchhiker's Guide and Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul.

As for "psychic demon smacking" well the only thing more colloquial would be "Psychic demon smack Down with Bobby Flay". In that case, the carnivorous reptiles would be surf and turf!

lead by example said...

EE: "While people do declare other people plum crazy"

Only if they're nitwits. The rest call them plumb crazy.

Zornhau said...

I'd buy the book. The concept rocks.

Bernita said...

"plum crazy?"
Ouch.
Or should I say "goldarnit" or "dagnabit?"
At least you didn't write "paw."
Otherwise, it sounds like fun.

Rei said...

"it's up to Toby and Otter to keep the demon from glutting on humanity like a fox in a hen house"

... using their honed metaphor-mixing skills! ;)

Seriously, though -- the book does sound interesting.

pjd said...

"it's up to Toby and Otter to keep the demon from glutting on humanity like a fox in a hen house"

I knew a guy who used to get busy at work and then say, "I've been running around with my head cut off all morning."

Sorry, author, this isn't my cup o' tea. I think the query did a pretty good job, and I like EE's version better. I'm guessing the reason it's 134,000 words is because you keep throwing in new sidekicks until you have a roving freak show. Is there an opportunity to eliminate some of them and shorten the work?

g'luck

Twill said...

The word "military" clanged for me. Put in a period term instead - "troops" or "cavalry" or something.

The "Arzaccian natives" line had similar problems for me. If you're writing in the 1870-1890 period, and they are Native Americans, then it would be "Arzaccian Indians" or "Arzaccian tribe". If not, then you need to explain what the heck they are.

sylvia said...

"But ya gotta keep "ass-kickin'" if that's the spirit of the book."

I thought exactly this when I read EE's rewrite.

I've been thinking about the advice "show me your voice in your query" which I am very clear I did NOT do in the Faerie Dream query that was posted here.

This query showed me what that advice meant. I am not saying it was perfect the way it was, and I agree with most of EE's changes, but I think the author, upon rewriting this query, needs to make an active attempt to retain that voice.