Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Face-Lift 379


Guess the Plot

Utsalady Bay

1. Waving palms, rippling waves and rich, heavy bananas that drop straight into your hand - life at Utsalady Bay is one long idyll . . . until the banana harvest fails and the zombies come.

2. Jeep Morrow would like to settle down in Utsalady Bay, but first he needs to know why his best friend Armen tried to kill him--even if it means flying to West Africa where Armen is overseeing the mother of all weight-loss programs.

3. The gripping story of a car salesman, an old cowboy, a troubled jockey, and the plowhorse they conspire to get into the Kentucky Derby. It was supposed to be a gag, but can Utsalady Bay pull off the upset of the century?

4. Grandma was getting a little deaf, which was how she ended up on the ferry to Utsalady Bay. Fortunately, her sword arm is still good enough to take on the Kraken when terrorists unleash it on an unsuspecting Canadian town. Also, a trombone player in a tutu.

5. John Grant, Navy SEAL, has been tasked with observing the strange goings-on in Utsalady Bay. When he sees a pod of dolphins operating a small craft, he realizes the awful truth: the reign of humans is finally over.

6. Can things get any worse after Jeannette Wilson’s boss outsources her job overseas, her parents retire to Guadalajara, and her fiancĂ© dumps her to become a goat herder? Yes! She learns her home loan is being purchased by a league of non-English speaking vampires. Also, scuba diving.


Original Verson

Dear Mr. Evil:

A 747 crashes into the ocean halfway to Africa. [Not that it really matters, but halfway to Africa could be many places, depending on whether the 747 started in Argentina, Australia, Miami or India.] There are 420 stories that could be told, but the most intriguing is number 421: the man with a suitcase full of pink telephone message pads who steps off the plane moments before it pushes back from the gate.

UTSALADY BAY is a thriller with a humorous strain, complete at 99,000 words. It takes place over ten days in present-day Seattle and West Africa. It is the story of childhood friends who find their pecking order and prospects reversed as adults.

Jeep Morrow’s [Jeep? What kind of name is Jeep? Wait, I know: it's Cherokee.] ordinary day at the office goes dangerously awry when lifelong friend Armen Cascagian begs him to carry two million in cash to Liberia to save a business deal. [I don't care if you are my lifelong friend. If you hand me two million in cash, I'm gone, and not to Liberia.] The deal is a sham, the money disappears, the plane crashes, and Armen’s car turns up in Jeep’s driveway. [The significance of the car in the driveway is lost in the query.] Armen goes missing and Jeep sets off to track him down, not sure whether to rescue or thrash him.

The trail leads to a dilapidated compound in the wastelands of Mali where the mother of all weight-loss programs is being cobbled together. [The Jendayi Craig system.] Jeep peels back layers of lies and deception and discovers he is just an expendable chip in Armen’s high-stakes game. In order to set things right he must first rely on a dead former employee; [One thing you quickly learn when you get into management: you can't rely on the dead for anything.] a morbidly obese Texas billionaire; and an empty-bellied scavenger from Brooklyn with a roomful of gold nuggets to get him out of Africa alive.

My experience operating small airlines in Africa gives Jeep and his story depth and authenticity. I have written extensively for corporate newsletters and inflight magazines.

I have enclosed a SASE. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Very truly yours,


Revised Version

Dear Mr. Evil:

A 747 bound from New York to Liberia crashes into the Atlantic. There are 420 stories that could be told, but the most intriguing is number 421: the man with a suitcase full of pink telephone message pads who stepped off the plane moments before it pushed back from the gate.

UTSALADY BAY is a thriller with a humorous strain, complete at 99,000 words. It is the story of childhood friends who find their pecking order and prospects reversed as adults.

Jeep Morrow’s ordinary day at his law firm goes dangerously awry when lifelong friend Armen Cascagian begs him to carry two million in cash to Liberia to save a business deal. Armen is in the business of buying and leasing aircraft, but this deal is a sham. When the money disappears, the plane crashes, and Armen goes missing, Jeep sets out to track him down, not sure whether to rescue or thrash him.

The trail leads to a dilapidated compound in the wastelands of Mali where the mother of all weight-loss programs is being cobbled together. Or is it? Jeep peels back layers of lies and deception to discover he is an expendable chip in Armen’s high-stakes game. To get out of Africa alive, he'll need to rely on a dead former employee, a Brooklyn gold dealer, and his own instincts.

My experience operating small airlines in Africa gives Jeep's story depth and authenticity. I have written extensively for corporate newsletters and inflight magazines. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Very truly yours,


Notes

Normally I don't do a revised version if the query is in good shape, but it's vital that this book sells, as it's for the juvenile diabetes auction winner, and if it sells, I should be able to bring in twice as much next year.

It wasn't clear how your experience operating small airlines provided depth and authenticity, when the only airplane you mention crashes. Which explains my attempt to work in that Armen is in the business of leasing jumbo jets.

27 comments:

BuffySquirrel said...

When is this set? I only ask because these days I suspect you'd have to check in anything the size of a suitcase, and if a passenger with checked luggage gets off a plane, it isn't going to be a case of moments before pushback. Reboarding, anyone?

The pink post-it notes are intriguing...I'm assuming Jeep discovers that's what he's got instead of money? The opening to this query is grabby.

Bonnie said...

I'd read this if I grabbed it off the shelf when I was in the mood for light exciting entertainment.

takoda said...

Alrighty then. I guess for those of us who were wondering if Miss Snark was the winner with the generous pockets--our question has been answered (grin) Unless she snarks on the way to Liberia....

LOL- Quote: It wasn't clear how your experience operating small airlines provided depth and authenticity, when the only airplane you mention crashes. (Unless author is a really bad pilot!)

I really liked this, save for two nits:
The title doesn't do anything for me.

The mother of all weight loss programs sounds morbid, given it's set in Africa. I don't find this funny at all.

The rest of your query sounds great! I loved the opening when you had it posted.

Cheers,

Anonymous said...

2 million is not much $$ on the scale of international business transations. I suspect you'd need a substantial trunk and a hand cart to lug that much cash around, not a briefcase. Is this Jeep guy supposed to be an attorney? Having worked in the legal field myself for quite a while, I have to say a buddy from the 'hood with that much cash always equals big trouble and I think you would need to find an exceptionally guillible and naive attorney if you want him to be the mule in such a transaction. Which might be how you wrote this, but I'm not sure. It's really hard to write a character who is alternately savvy and stupid. Why an attorney? The expertise doesn't seem to fit the premise. If this doesn't fly you might try making him a desperate pizza driver, unemployed English major, coffee dude, aging stripper, or night guard at Wallmart with all the ambition and none of the brains...

Bonnie said...

If the money is in $5000-dollar bills, two million would be 400 bills. Too much for a wallet, but it would tuck into the side pocket of a briefcase.

If it's $500's, it'd be quite a bit more - ten times as much, to be precise -- but still enough to fit in an average carryon.

That's assuming I entered the right numbers in the calculator :)

Evil Editor said...

The money is in $100 bills. According to Google Answers, $1,000,000 in $100 bills, stacked in one stack, would be 43 inches high. So we have 86 inches. My briefcase, at 17 by 12 inches, will hold 12 stacks of bills, which means it would need to be 7 inches deep to accommodate the money (it isn't). A case somewhat longer, capable of holding 14 stacks, would need to be about 6 inches deep. Not an uncommon depth for an attache case, and I'm guessing cases are custom made at any size, anyway.

Robin S. said...

I liked the opening, and I like the query.

It seems to me that this sentence: "It is the story of childhood friends who find their pecking order and prospects reversed as adults" anchors the story. It's a good one.

I'm not put off at all with the line about weight-loss programs - hope this doesn't mean I'm sick - but takoda's comment about this makes me wonder if some agents reading it would be offput. Just asking. I don't pretend to know the answer.

takoda said...

Hi Robin, I wondered whether I should put that or not. I think I'm more sensitive than most people to issues about poverty-I've lived in 3rd world countries.

Anyway, the query is really good, and I loved the opening.

Best of luck to the author and EE for making a great sale!! Please keep the minions updated!!

KS said...

Thanks EE. Much better.

Anonymous said...

re bags: An audit bag, which is big and boxy, can hold that much $$.

writtenwyrdd said...

Okay, if you carry more than 10K in currency you have to claim it. Paperwork. If you have it as carry on, it might be slightly noticeable, yannow??

Dave said...

Whoa horsies!
You can carry as much money as you want without declaring it. There is no crime in carrying money around. If you are willing to travel with it, you can do that, too. the suspicion is that it's not legal money. And it might not be honest to lie about it. Carrying all that money is not criminal per se. Not declaring it is considered a crime. The goofy drug laws assume guilt and not innocence and allow confiscation. It's politically criminal, not criminally criminal.
Besides, only post-it pads are carried onto the airplane.

writtenwyrdd said...

Talking about in the airport, Dave. He's flying out of the country, he needs to declare the currency. If there is something hinky about this money, guess who is linked by government paperwork to the money? The carrier.

Robin S. said...

Hi takoda,

No- I think it was a good thing you brought it up- better to think through potential problems now, than when potential translates to actual.

Anonymous said...

"He's flying out of the country, he needs to declare the currency"

I thought the first thing they taught you in mule school was not to declare what it was you were illegally carrying.

But seriously, if he got as far as security they'd open his briefcase, and he'd know about the pink notepads. In which case - would you get on the flight? I wouldn't.

Anonymous said...

In which case - would you get on the flight? I wouldn't.

If I'm reading it right, he didn't either...

...the man with a suitcase full of pink telephone message pads who steps off the plane moments before it pushes back from the gate.

Anonymous said...

I think the feds are doing their best to make it really really hard to skip onto international flights with $2 million cash, not your own, going from a sketchy source to a sketchy destination these days. Plus such a mule is obviously vulnerable to violence and/or interception by thugs, undercover cops, and switcheroo schemes all along the route, which is why I think you need a patsy for the mule job, not someone who thinks like a smart attorney. That's just the wrong expertise. Go see/read Get Shorty again. Yayo is exactly the kind of guy you need -- desperate to prove himself, somewhat expendable to the people he's working for, not too bright.

Dave said...

During President Clinton's second term, the Department of Energy held a conference in Khazakstan (I not absolutely sure about the location, but it was in one of the Russian castoff states).
I knew the man who traveled with the money for the conference - $50,000 cold, hard cash in a belt around his waist. The Banks were so screwed up that they couldn't wire the money. His only protection was a red passport (and you know what that means).

Anonymous said...

His only protection was a red passport (and you know what that means).

He's from Europe?

In The Know said...

Your typical mule is either desperate for cash or under some kind of duress (kidnapped family members are not uncommon). I know of a particular case (the mule died) where they surgically inserted drugs under the long muscles of the man's legs (thigh and calf). Apparently this operation was done without any sterile environment or anesthesia. The mule was nigh unto death when he arrived and didn't get past security. He died of septicemia a few days later.

Money is probably (and I'm making an educated guess here) laundered via electronic funds transfers more often than not. But if you are planning to get a few mill to the Grand Caymans for initial deposit in your secret account, you also might have to smuggle it out. I'd expect it could be carried in smaller quantities on the person or within the baggage, but not via carry on.

Anonymous said...

red passport? eh?

If you were in the airplane business and needed to get 2 million cash to some foreign country, any halfway bright attorney would tell you to just fly it there on one of your own planes, as always. And if that's too hard for some reason, just charter something, or hire Brinks or Pinkerton, or carry it yourself or send your expendable nephew. He would never volunteeer to carry it on a 737 in a briefcase. If you beg your old buddy to do it, an attorney would laugh and think this sounds exactly like phase 1 in the kind of stupid schemes that bring his clients down, and then he'd give you the bum's rush to the elevator.

Evil Editor said...

It is one of his own planes. Based on the author's credits, one might give him the benefit of the doubt. He may know more about west African airlines than all of us combined.

Anonymous said...

I meant use your own plane as in send the corporate jet on a special mission. If this is his own plane I'm even more mystified about having an attorney hand carry the $$ onboard amid 400 other passengers. I assumed his airline just used little bitty planes on short flights. If you're dealing in 737s with a regular schedule of cross-Atlantic flights, 2 million is a month's jet fuel, not an impressive amount, and should not require special cloak-and-dagger type arrangments.

Maybe we need more info on the scheme here. Or perhaps the author is using too much reality. Lets remember fiction needs to be believable, reality does not. If the goal is zany maybe the guy should be carrying something of sentimental value, some treasured token of their idyllic past, not cash.

And maybe you don't need 400 passengers. The idea of crashing commercial flights hasn't been funny for a long time, so if a plane full of passengers isn't vital to your plot and you want the book to be funny, do you really need a scene like that?

Evil Editor said...

You're still making assumptions that are not in the book or the query. Stop worrying about taking money on a plane.

The book is a thriller. While it has occasional comedic elements, no attempt is made to make the plane crash funny, nor do I see how one could get that idea from reading this query.

Dave said...

Frustrating ain't it!
The transfer of the money is legit. What happens however is a doublecross -- Jeep's high school friend, Armen, steals (maybe) the money and sends his friend to death. That's why Jeep is hunting Armin.

Money and monetary instruments (diamonds, gold, certificates, bonds, etc...) travel by air all the time. The transfer of money and wealth is not, IN ITSELF, illegal.

I can't help the author because my writing style differs so greatly from his. This author has a unique sense of humor that I can;t match.
EE has a good revision. I might like a bit more story about happens in Africa (I think that line is skimpy) ...

I also think that the first paragraph and the third paragraph contain hooks. They battle each other in my mind. I also don't care for the "million stories in the naked city" reference. That hook is more powerful without that schtick. But, you see, that is part of the author's sense of humor.

I think the second paragraph might read better it is came before the last (the experience paragraph). And look at its second line - it's a third hook. The problem with removing it is the humor it contains.

I have no problems with the plot at all. I barely have problems with the revised hook. I have opinions.

As for red passports - official government business is done on red passports. Everyone else gets Blue. Why on earth do you think Hijackers and Terrorists collect the passports? They know immediately ir they have USA tourists or USA diplomats and employees. WTH did you think official business meant? grouch, grouch, grunp, grumble, growl!

Dave said...

Gee, what a minor-league hissy fit.
I'll make fun of myself for that last post, if you don't mind.

Robin S. said...

I just scrolled down and read all of these money-on-the-plane comments.

Wow. I didn't think minutia was the point of these discussions.