Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Face-Lift 369


Guess the Plot

Lorekeeper

1. In her hasty scan of the employment ads, Mirra misread the position title as "storekeeper." Now she's paying the price, having to memorize 800 years of oral history. Also, a disgruntled elf.

2. When the wicked Chaos Mage sends a dead body crashing through the window of the occult folklore bookstore, the owner is upset--until she realizes this will bring her more customers than ever.

3. She came, she saw, she kicked our asses as Miss Snark. Now she's back as . . . the Lorekeeper. Will the blogosphere ever be the same?

4. When Jake wanders down his suburban street to look for his lost puppy late one night, he meets the homeless guy his mom warned him about. The guy's not crazy like Mom said, though . . . he's the last remaining Lorekeeper . . . and he needs an apprentice.

5. Meek nurse's aid Wendy Covens wonders why none of the elderly in Fern Home can remember the good old days. Could Dr. Skull be removing their memories with his diabolical Loresucker Vacuum Device? And if he is, how can Wendy and her stuttering crush, orderly Chad Stubbins, stop him?

6. F'girth is the only male in the clan still alive. As such, he is the only one eligible to become Loremaster, keeper of the clan history. But the clan elders have a problem: Face extinction or change the clan law that requires the Loremaster to be a celibate male. F'girth is ticked that he doesn't get a vote.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

LOREKEEPER is a 85,000-word paranormal thriller set in a world where only a small percentage of humanity believes in ghosts, magic, vampires, or anything else supernatural. Of course, that small percentage is [the ghosts, the vampires and the zombies.] right.

After her grandfather's death, all Kanna Tanvert wants out of life is for Grandad's "specialized" used book store to eke out her living for a few more years. [And then what?] Unfortunately, occult literature and folklore doesn't quite pay the bills. Worse, the death magic cast on the grounds when a dead man crashes through her display window pretty much crushes her modest hopes and sends her into hiding with the Diplomat, the most notorious assassin in the country. [Replacing my display window will cost more than I make in a month. I may as well close the store and run off with this notorious assassin.]

He makes no bones about his reasons for helping her: he wants the Chaos Mage. He will do anything to kill the man who destroyed his former life, including dangling Kanna like the proverbial carrot. [A bit of research reveals that there are several proverbs involving carrots:

Never bolt your door with a boiled carrot.
A dish of carrot hastily cooked may still have soil uncleaned off the vegetable.
If there is no cucumber a carrot will have to do.
And the one you apparently were citing: You can catch more flies with a carrot than with a stick.]

Enlisting help from a few morally dubious allies, Kanna and the Diplomat declare war on a legend, using their own lives as bait.

When Kanna discovers that the wicked Chaos Mage is actually her brother--traded to the old Chaos Mage by her parents

[Old Chaos Mage: I want your son.
Kanna's parents: We're not giving you our son!
Old Chaos Mage: Giving? No, no, I want to trade for him.
Kanna's parents: We wouldn't trade our son for anyth-- Say, what's in that colorful box with the question marks all over it?]

before she was born--and the death magic cast on her shop was actually a success spell meant to keep her in modestly prosperous business for the rest of her life, [Your sister is having a rough time of it with her bookshop, so to help her out you kill a guy and throw his body through her window?] [Wait a minute, did you call this a modestly prosperous success spell? What does he have to do to make her wildly successful? Throw two dead bodies through her window?] she must choose between her only family and the man she has come to trust and count as a friend. Both are murderers. Neither will let her just walk away. [Why won't her brother let her walk away? Has she harmed him? A minute ago he was helping her out by hurling a dead body through her window; now he won't let her walk away?]

I have a BA in English from Missouri Southern State University, and I formerly freelanced for the Joplin Globe, the premier newspaper in my area. The full manuscript is available at your request.

Thank you for your consideration.


Notes

If heaving a corpse through someone's window is supposed to be a good thing, you might want to inform the person of that fact prior to the actual toss.

Does Kanna know the Diplomat is a notorious assassin? If a dead body came through my window I'd be freaked out for a while, but when nothing else happened--except an unexpected horde of customers suddenly descending on my store to buy folklore books--I would not assume that my best move was to run off with a notorious assassin.

What makes them think using their lives as bait will work? What does the Chaos Mage want with their lives?

I'm sure everything makes perfect sense in the book. Clear up a few of the questions in the query and this will be fine.

20 comments:

kris said...

There are two references to the Chaos Mage, but I still have no idea what one is. I know it's Kanna's brother and that there was one prior to him. Without more, I assume the Chaos Mage is the Dread Pirate Roberts.

If Kanna is being dangled like a carrot, but the antagonist is her brother who cast a success spell on her business, it doesn't seem like much tension would result. Does brother not know who the carrot is? Or did someone other than her brother cast the spell?

"After her grandfather's death, all Kanna Tanvert wants out of life is for Grandad's "specialized" used book store to eke out her living for a few more years."

After this, I saw Kanna as 52 or 62, depending on her choice age for retirement.

The first sentence references belief in vampires. I immediately thought: Next! No more vampires for me, please. The opening is catchy, but if they don't play a role in your book, it seems like. . . Also, a vampire.

Bernita said...

I like everything but this sudden affection for a Brother She Has Never Known.
No sure there's a choice here between him and the Duplomat.

RT said...

I liked this. It sounds fun and fast-paced. My only comment is this line...

set in a world where only a small percentage of humanity believes in ghosts, magic, vampires, or anything else supernatural.

Isn't this pretty much a description of all paranormals? The unique circumstances are where ALL the world believes (thinking of Robin McKinley's Sunshine as an example.)

writtenwyrdd said...

I love #4. Will someone please write it? But not me, I'm, um, working. Yeah. That's it...

Kate Thornton said...

Man, I really liked GTP#4 - I was so hoping it was the real one and that Writtenwyrrd was working on it!

Anonymous said...

I loved #4, too and was sure that was it! I was sorry I was wrong.

OpenChannel said...

I agree with Kris. I had no idea what a Chaos Mage was. I also didn't understand how a "death spell" was actually a "success spell." And if the brother sent the "success spell" he must have known Kanna was his siter, right? Or else why would he bother to send the spell? What would be his motive?

This means he's keeping his identity secret from her for a reason. So... I don't get how Kanna could be dangled in front of him like a carrot - what would he need with her / from her?

There are some interesting elements, but my sense is that the writer is being purposefully vague to create a sense of mystery/intrigue. I used to do this myself before I learned that I was doing myself a disservice. For a pitch, it simply annoys and confuses.

writtenwyrdd said...

Thanks for the nod,Kate, but I think I'll stick to the projects I've already got!

Author, I thought this sounded like it has some interesting possibilities. I think that the query fails you because there is no emotional connection between events, and no why. Why does the protag care about her long-lost brother? Why does she get hooked with the assassin? Why should we care about her and he rproblems?


That first paragraph is a turn off. You are stating the obvious. The second paragraph, you put specialized in quotes, implying some kind of negative implication, which confused me.

Then you tell us she must ally herself with an assassin who wants to kill the Chaos Mage (whom we do not yet know anything about) which leaves us needing to know what's the connection?

From context, I assume that the Chaos Mage has some relevancy to the main character's life, and we need that inorder to make the assassin connection viable. So, how about saying something like, "Business was slow in Kanna's occult book shop; but after the Chaos Mage cast a death spell on her shop, Kanna had to [do what? Was she on the run?]. Her only option was to team up with the Diplomat, an assassin also seeking the Chaos Mage. Together, they [??]"

That's really bad, but I think that's the sort of connectivity you might consider establishing to improve the hook here. I like the image of the corpse being flung through her window, though; so I hope you don't lose it.

Sounds interesting. I'd like to see what you do with this idea.

150 said...

I agree that the query letter could be clearer, but I'd probably pick this up and give it a look.

Anonymous said...

Another case of chaos mange. Try some logic ointment.

GutterBall said...

Excellent suggestions, all. Can I talk anyone into reading over a revised version and offering equally helpful critique? Pretty please with book sales on top?

LOREKEEPER is a 85,000-word paranormal thriller set in a world where only a small percentage of humanity believes in the unnatural. Of course, that small percentage is right.

After her grandfather's death, all Kanna Tanvert wants out of life is for Grandad's specialized used book store to eke out a living so she doesn't have to leave the only home she knows. Unfortunately, occult literature and folklore doesn't quite pay the bills. Worse, the death magic cast on the grounds when a dead man crashes through her display window pretty much crushes her modest hopes and sends her into hiding with the Diplomat, the most notorious assassin in the country. He is her only chance of surviving and perhaps removing whatever deadly curse has been unleashed on her shop.

His motives, however, are not reassuring. He makes no bones about his reasons for helping her: he wants the Chaos Mage--the only person powerful enough to pull off such sophisticated magic. He will do anything to kill the man who destroyed his former life, including dangling Kanna like the proverbial carrot. See, he knows what Kanna does not: the Chaos Mage is her brother, traded away by her parents long before she was born.

What he doesn't know is that the death magic cast on her shop is actually a success spell meant to keep her in modestly properous business for the rest of her life--just successful enough that she would never question why or how. Of course, once she finds out that she actually has a surviving relative, she is forced to decide between her only family and the man she has come to trust and rely on. Both are murderers. Both are twisted by the fates life has dealt them. And now, neither will let her just walk away.

I have blah-blah-blah....


Whaddya think? Better? Worse? Indifferent?

Anonymous said...

Your insurmountable problem is that the main character, the person at the center of it all, Kanna, comes off as a vaccuum, a void, a fleeting winsome whisp while two over-developed males carry on some sort of sensless evil vs evil war around her. There's no one to relate to or care about.

Anonymous said...

Did the body that got tossed through the window belong to a deceased Amway salesman?

phoenix said...

OK, trying to get my head around this being a paranormal thriller. I'm thinking it's a contemporary setting, which is what makes it not fantasy, but that's a guess. What's your real hook here? What's different about your story that you can get those book sales? Saying it's set in a world where only a small percentage of humanity believes in the unnatural. Of course, that small percentage is right isn't a really strong opening. That's 95% of the paranormals out there, isn't it? RT noted that, too. Give us the big oomph of your book right up front. It has one, right?

Do we need to know about Grandad and his leaving the store to Kanna in the query? Nope. Cut. Makes the story sound slow. The store doesn't pay the bills? Then how did her Grandad make a living, and how did she survive before she inherited a store that has no profit? Phrased this way, it raises too many questions. Think about another short way to say it's unprofitable like a turn in the economy or some such.

Still have no idea why she has to go into hiding, nor why the Diplomat is her only chance. Only chance for what? And let's see... brother is a murderer and the Diplomat is ... oh, yeah, a murderer, too. And they both want to kill her if she decides on the other one? Why is her decision only between the two of them? Why can't she say, "Screw you both," and take her chances? How can she trust and rely on someone willing to do implied bodily harm to her if she doesn't stay with him?

Sorry, that strayed off your query and into story territory. But you haven't given me any reason to like or care about any of these characters. Two murderers and a woman who, it's implied, can't take care of herself, caught between them.

What makes this a thriller? Usually a thriller has some pulse-pounding action, sometimes even a deadline. Can you inject a sense of that into the query? Right now the tone isn't very exciting. Pretty dullsville, actually, I'm afraid. I'm just not seeing a novel-sized big picture here.

Evil Editor said...

I don't think the new version is an improvement. A dead body has crashed through the window. Unless there was a note tied around its neck saying, "You're next," it's not clear why she must go into hiding. For all she knows, the body was thrown through the wrong window. And why can't she go into hiding without the Diplomat?

The Diplomat wants the Chaos Mage--"the only person capable of such sophisticated magic." What sophisticated magic? It was a simple spell to make a bookstore mildly successful. Since the Diplomat didn't even know that, we can assume he didn't know what kind of spell it was. So how does he know it's sophisticated?

She needs to decide between these two men? Decide what? Which one to settle down with? Does the Diplomat expect her to marry him now that he helped her? I would assume the Diplomat is thinking, as soon as I kill the Chaos Mage, Kanna and I will go our separate ways. Or maybe I'll kill her, too. Has Kana fallen for the assassin?

Bonnie said...

Oooh, somebody HAS to write number 4! That sounds so cool.

Sorry, the second one leaves me just as cold as the first -- and I don't think it's the summary, I think it's the story itself that I don't like. I got tired years ago of the whole bit about two powerful men fighting over the poor helpless heroine. It also comes across that she is doing things just because it fits the plot, not because she has her own powerful reasons.

GutterBall said...

Hmmm. Obviously, a different approach is required here. Lemme ruminate and come up with something a little more flashy but with more about Kanna.

And it's not that she's fallen in love with the Diplomat. It's not a romance. It's just that she's never had family or friends before, and suddenly she has both and she doesn't want to lose either. Unfortunately, they hate each other and want her to pick a side.

Back to the drawing board, but I'll be back. Oh, yes! I'll be back!

writtenwyrdd said...

Bonnie pegged the problem. She does seem to be doing things to fulfill your agenda, not hers. Also, you don't give us the pertinent info in the second letter.

You say: "And it's not that she's fallen in love with the Diplomat. It's not a romance. It's just that she's never had family or friends before, and suddenly she has both and she doesn't want to lose either. Unfortunately, they hate each other and want her to pick a side."

That's the stuff we need to know to make us want to find out what happens to the heroine of your story. Not necessarily all of it, but like I said before the WHYS.

And the first paragraph still should go. Put that at the end and see how it reads, and maybe omit the bit about the world/beliefs.

For what it's worth, I didn't assume it would be a romance. You said it was a thriller and I therefore expected some compelling reason like staying alive, threats to others, etc. were the problems forcing the heroine to go into hiding and which started the ball rolling. You have to explain what that is, though; this second leter doesn't do that, either.

Maybe you need to start with telling us how/why she has a relationship with the Diplomat and then say but then her long-lost brother the Chaos Mage turns up-- and he's the Diplomat's sworn enemy. Then our heroine is forced to choose between friendship and family-- neither of which she's enjoyed before (despite the grandfather you mention)...

Anonymous said...

As far as we can tell the males are both detestable scum, which is our other reason for not relating to this wimpy chick's problem. We say to ourselves, well hmm, she seems irrational and insipid and her dilemma is like chosing between two criminals destined for death row --- and they're not even sexy to her. What's the charm? Why would tens of thousands of readers pay to go there? Can't imagine. The premise simply does not appear to be commercial.

sylvia said...

"[Kanna] is forced to decide between her only family and the man she has come to trust and rely on. Both are murderers. Both are twisted by the fates life has dealt them. And now, neither will let her just walk away."

I am a bit late to the party but I wanted to say this line from your revision grabbed me. I'd read on based on it.