Thursday, December 27, 2007

Face-Lift 469


Guess the Plot

Unholy Ghosts

1. Each year, God selects the most worthy spirit in Heaven to serve as the Holy Ghost. This year, He's making his selection through an American Idol style contest, with the losers spending the year in Hell. For Justin, it's damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't.

2. They were ratty, they were torn, they were holey ghosts. But now, thanks to a little help from the Spirit of Christmas Past, they're getting it all together. Demons better watch out - its the all new . . . Unholy Ghosts.

3. The Baptists had it all wrong - way wrong. Now they're sitting in a very Catholic purgatory, all 200 million of 'em, contemplating just how wrong they were. Soon, it's gonna be time for revenge. If you've ever taught Sunday School, pack your bags and get out of town - before the Unholy Ghosts come calling.

4. Lex Hopper's mom refuses to ruin a perfectly good sheet by cutting eyeholes in it so he can be a ghost at Hallowe'en. Later that night, a still-incensed Lex meets the Devil enjoying a hot tub in Mrs. Minchpick's back yard. There's more than one way to make a ghost and Lex's mom is about to discover there's more to life than good sheets.

5. After a long series of flubs and mistakes, paranormal investigator Rory Mitchell isn't really sure of anything anymore. She knows one thing, though: ghosts can't really hurt anyone. But soon she finds out she's wrong. Again.

6. A drug addict is hired by her dealer to banish spirits from an airport so he can use the place for smuggling. It sounds like a piece-of-cake job, but there's a downside: these are no ordinary spirits; they're . . . Unholy Ghosts!


Original Version

Dear Agent,

[Insert line or two about how I found agent or whatever.] [Agent or whatever? Listen, if you can't get an agent immediately, keep trying. Don't settle for a mannequin or a weredingo.] I would love for you to consider representing UNHOLY GHOSTS, my approximately 83,000 thousand word [83,000 thousand equals 83 million. 83 million equals instant reject. Unless it's an encyclopedia.] [Word count should be approximated by rounding down to the nearest ten million, and subtracting 1 so it doesn't seem quite so long. In this case it would be 79,999,999.] dark urban fantasy set primarily in a punk-rock ghetto known as Downside.

[When you're depressed and shit is making you bitter
You can always go - Downside
When you're hopped up on drugs and feel suicidal
You can off yourself - Downside
Just listen to the racket of the axemen and the drummers
Linger with the emos as they claim their lives are bummers
How can you breathe?

The waste and puke fill the air
You can deny all your responsibilities there
So go Downside, tell yourself life is great
Downside - great place to take a date
Downside - everything sucks when you're there.]

Sometimes addictions are more trouble than they're worth… [If you're going to start your sales pitch with this line, I think I'd start the whole query with it. It feels weird following the previous paragraph.] [Though my advice is to start the query with the song parody.]

In a world where having a ghost in your house could earn you an enormous cash settlement from the Church of Truth—government, state religion, and the only line of defense between humanity and the spirits determined to destroy them—faking a haunting is seen by some as a better shot to [at] riches than the lottery. [Standing in the desert hoping a bag containing 10,000 thousand dollars falls out of the sky is a better shot at riches than the lottery.] [I would delete everything between the dashes. It's a lengthy and somewhat confusing interruption of the set-up.] That's why the Church has Debunkers. Their job is to disprove the hauntings, or banish the ghosts back to the City of Eternity if the haunting is proved real.

Cesaria "Chess" Putnam is a Debunker. She's also an orphan, a former abused foster child, and a loner for whom drugs are all that make life worth the bother.

When her drug dealer offers her a way to work off her debt to him, by debunking or banishing the haunting at an abandoned airport so he can use it for smuggling, she agrees. [Banishing I can see, but debunking? Why would anyone fake a haunting at an abandoned airport? Who stands to get rich?] Wiping fifteen grand—it should have been only four, but he's decided to charge interest—off the books suits her just fine, and the job should be as easy as swallowing a pill.

Too bad nothing is ever easy, especially in Downside. [But nothing is ever easy in Downside.] A rival drug gang discovers what Chess is doing and offers a counter-deal she can't refuse: if she doesn't banish the ghosts, they'll supply her for free. [That's it? Unless they pay off her debt as well, she can easily refuse.] She'd be glad to turn her back on the whole thing and curl up on her couch getting high, but what's going on at the airport is far more sinister than a mere haunting. When a decaying corpse is found with a soul trapped inside and the black magicians responsible decide to pay a middle-of-the-night visit to Chess' apartment for a little weapons practice, Chess realizes she can't just walk away. Solving this one is going to take every bit of bravery, intelligence, and skill she possesses…and an awful lot of amphetamines too. [What does she need to solve? You said the black magicians were responsible.]

Unholy Ghosts is a stand-alone novel, but is planned as the first in a series.

I have [small press credits]. I'd be happy to send the complete manuscript of Unholy Ghosts for your review. Thanks for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Notes

Your Church of Truth won't be the only one. There's an International Church of Truth and a Cosmic Church of Truth and a Marvel Universe Church of Truth. But don't worry, I'm guessing more people read this blog than are members of any of them.

What's the point of faking a haunting if the Church sends in Debunkers? Is Debunking an inexact science?

What's the point of banishing ghosts "back" to the City of Eternity? They left it once; why won't they leave again?

Is haunting an abandoned airport more fun than being in the City of Eternity? Just wondering about the spirits' motivation.

You'll have to get Chess off the drugs soon. It'll interfere with her debunking, and her employer won't stand for it.

25 comments:

BuffySquirrel said...

Some of your line breaks are off on vacation, EE :).

Why doesn't the dealer get the ghost banished through official channels?

Dave F. said...

The ghost of Petula Clark will rise from the dead and haunt you AFTER she dies. Right now, she's going to color your world (ooooooh) black and blue becase she's alive and kicking your butt!
(That's a funny, funny, song parody.) Put this on 2008's best list.

GTP #1 could be a real screaming comedy.

Now as to the query, I have a few comments. Please forget that dashes and ellipses exist and don't use them in the query. When you have the urge to use them, don't. What happens is that you are inserting a "cute" thought into the flow of the plot and it disrupts the reader's mind. God only knows how bad that is. Some of use have such little minds we can't take an interruption.

Wiping out a debt to Drug Lord #1 is an offer you can't refuse. Double-crossing Drug Lord #1 by violating Church of the Establishment rules and leaving ghosts hanging around is an offer you CAN refuse. That's actually a big conflict in her life.

An even bigger conflict is the unspecified sinister ghostly stuff going on in the abandoned airport by the black magicians. I mean drug dealers are one trouble but black magicians capable of entrapping souls in dead bodies and other foul deeds are absolutely another conflict.

I very much like EE's suggested starting point: Sometimes addictions are more trouble than they're worth.
And I think this is the next part of the query: "Chess" Putnam's drug dealer offers to wipe out her debt if she doesn't do her job as debunker and fakes a ghost living in the old, abandoned airport. Another drug lord offers Chess free drugs for life if she double-crosses her drug dealer."
But, nothing is ever easy. Evil magicians plotting dastardly deeds are using the airport and leaving ghosts trapped in dead bodies as their calling card.
Can Chess defeat the evil magicians? Can she survive a fight between rival drug lords? OR will she end up as a ghost haunting the City of Downside?"


That's awfully rough.

Sarah said...

It sounds like an interesting story though I'm not sure I'm up for a druggie who isn't interested in getting clean as the hreo.

I rearranged what you had and came up with this:

Cesaria "Chess" Putnam is a Debunker working for the Church of Truth to disprove hauntings, or banish the ghosts back to the City of Eternity. She's also an orphan, a former abused foster child, and a loner for whom drugs are all that make life worth the bother. When her drug dealer offers her a way to work off her debt to him, by debunking or banishing the haunting at an abandoned airport so he can use it for smuggling, she agrees. A rival drug gang discovers what Chess is doing and offers a counter-deal: if she doesn't banish the ghosts, they'll supply her for free.

She'd be glad to turn her back on the whole thing and curl up on her couch getting high, but what's going on at the airport is far more sinister than a mere haunting. When a decaying corpse is found with a soul trapped inside and the black magicians responsible decide to pay a middle-of-the-night visit to Chess' apartment for a little weapons practice, Chess realizes she can't just walk away. Solving this one is going to take every bit of bravery, intelligence, and skill she possesses, plus a lot of amphetamines.

Unholy Ghosts is an 83,000 word dark urban fantasy set primarily in a punk-rock ghetto known as Downside. It’s a stand-alone novel, but is planned as the first in a series.

Ali said...

Solving this one is going to take every bit of bravery, intelligence, and skill she possesses… But there's no evidence that she possesses any of these, or any other redeeming qualities. If she does, I'd want to know what they are before committing even to reading a few pages about her. I'd like to learn something about Chess from your query that makes me think I'll want to invest the time in reading about her.
Because if it's a book about a flawed heroine who overcomes her own addiction along the way to solving the mystery of the airport haunting, I'd be interested in reading it. But, I'm not getting that from the query yet.

Also, I can't read "In a world where..." without hearing the Geico commercial spoof in my head. But maybe that's just me.

talpianna said...

I'm with Sarah and Ali--I can't care about a heroine whose idea of an HEA is to curl up on the couch getting high. Also, don't amphetamines turn you hyper rather than into a couch potato? During the short time I took them (by prescription, I assure you), that's what they did to me.

I think that Chess should find something in the course of the story that gives her an incentive to get clean and sober---perhaps a potential lover, perhaps the possibility of a better and more interesting career. And it's really hard for me to believe in the "intelligence, bravery, and skill" of a drug addict who isn't interested in changing.

Word Verification: dpgor
An undocumented refugee from a John Norman novel

rvlop said...

83 million words? Chro, is that you?

Actually, I quite like the idea of a druggie protag--but then, I still have a crush on Sherlock Holmes and think Dr Jekyll is more interesting than his counterpart.

stick and move said...

Sherlock Holmes displayed skill and passion despite his indulgences, and I don't get that our hero in the query possesses either. I'm sure the story shows why I should care about her, but it's not coming across in the query. Maybe mention something about her character arc in the query. Good luck, sounds like an interesting story.

And the song parody was brilliant! Definitely highlight material.

ME said...

Heh! EE's blue "Downtune" almost made me inhale a sno-cap!! I really liked the comments. The query -- eh, not so much.

Happy New Year
Tag line for ND#
"When you feel the need to deviate"

talpianna said...

But Sigmund Freud CURED Holmes of his addiction!

December/Stacia said...

EE, I almost peed myself laughing at the Petula Clark parody. Genius!

This was my attempt at a "long-form" query. Here's the short one:

Sometimes addictions are more trouble than they're worth…

Owing money to drug lords is never a good idea, especially not if you're Cesaria "Chess" Putnam, possibly the only woman in the punk-rock ghetto known as Downside who really has something to lose: her job as a Debunker for the omnipotent Church of Truth.

Chess' dealer offers her a choice. She can either Debunk the haunting of an abandoned airport so he can smuggle drugs into it, or spend weeks in the hospital after his enforcer breaks her habit for her—along with most of her bones. Chess chooses the airport. Too bad solving the case proves far more dangerous than a beating, and Chess' solitary, peaceful life is about to disappear faster than a line of speed. Hey, who said drug-addicted loners always made good choices?

My dark urban fantasy/paranormal suspense, UNHOLY GHOSTS, is complete at 83,000 words. It is a stand-alone novel, but is planned as the first in a series.



Wow, I'm surprised at how many people wouldn't accept a MC who isn't interested in kicking her drug habit (she's a downer addict, actually, but the amphetamines are because of how busy she is and the nightmares this case gives her). I thought House was a big hit in the States? (That's not where the idea came from, but there is a parallel.)

December/Stacia said...

Oh, and Buffysquirrel, her dealer can't get the haunting debunked (which often means finding out who is electronically faking the haunting, which rival dealers might be doing just to keep the airport out of use) or the ghost banished through official channels because he doesn't own the airport. If he called the Church in on it they would know what he was doing and why. And then he would probably go to jail.

Evil Editor said...

The short version is much more intereesting. And it isn't THAT short.

We put up with addictions of House and Holmes because they're among the greatest characters ever created. Chess hasn't attained that status yet. Also, when you say drugs are all that make her life worth the bother we think heroin, not downers. Downers are all that make life bearable.

I'd go with Chess's as your possessives. If that bothers you, change her name to Checker.

December/Stacia said...

Oh, I didn't intend to say Chess was as great a character as House, simply that people gave that character a chance. :-)

Thanks!

Evil Editor said...

It's not that your character won't be given a chance once people read the book. But I doubt Doyle presented Holmes to an editor by calling him a drug addict who would rather curl up on the couch than solve mysteries.

I'm more interested in your plot than your protagonist's character flaws at this point. If she's popping a few Valiums or Xanaxes every day, I can wait and find that out in the book. Hauntings are the hook. Debunking is what she does. Drugs are just how she copes.

pjd said...

I like this and think it could be an entertaining story. But... when the heat gets turned way up, why doesn't Chess go to her employer for help? "I have a problem and people are trying to kill me. I have an addiction, but sometimes addictions are more trouble than they're worth." If the Church of Truth is so all-powerful, they should be able to bring some resources to bear on both problems.

The shorter version is only good if you already have some of the background from the longer one. For example, it's unclear that the haunting could be real in the second query if you read it by itself. It doesn't seem much like a paranormal until you say it is at the end.

December/Stacia said...

Lol, that's very true. I was trying to convey the sort of "I'm too old for this sh*t" mentality, but it does come across as "She doesn't care anyway", doesn't it? Eep.

I'm glad you like the short version better. And I appreciate more than I can say your additional comments, EE.

talpianna said...

There's an "eating us out of House and Holmes" pun lurking in there somewhere, but I can't quite pull it off.

Sherlock Holmes was NOT actually a cocaine addict. He only took the drug when he was unbearably bored; and the appearance of an interesting new case made him put the needle aside without a second thought. So apparently he wasn't dependent on it.

I don't know if this is physiologically possible; he was injecting a 7% solution, not sniffing or smoking it.

BuffySquirrel said...

Fair enough, but that's not evident from the query. It reads as if he's just bringing Chess in to further the plot.

ME said...

dec/stacia! Hey I really like the "short version'! (STill enjoying the re-read of EE's lyrics, too) It gets more to the point and also clues me into the character of Chess(and it has a humorous tone). Also like the title. As for the debunkers -- just wondering if you could call them de-dupers instead? If you are at all going for humor, and/or are not abso-set on debunkers.??

Sarah said...

I like Debunking. I also like the shorter form with a bit added from the longer one plus some tightening.


Sometimes addictions are more trouble than they're worth…

Owing money to drug lords is never a good idea, especially not if you're Cesaria "Chess" Putnam, possibly the only woman in the punk-rock ghetto who really has something to lose: her job as a Debunker for the omnipotent Church of Truth.

Chess's dealer offers her a choice. She can either Debunk the haunting of an abandoned airport so he can smuggle drugs into it, or spend weeks in the hospital after his enforcer breaks her habit for her — along with most of her bones. Chess chooses the airport.

Too bad solving this case proves far more dangerous than a beating, and her solitary, peaceful life is about to disappear faster than a line of speed. For what's going on at the airport is far more sinister than a mere haunting. A decaying corpse is found with a soul trapped inside and the black magicians responsible pay a middle-of-the-night visit to Chess's apartment for a little weapons practice.

Hey, who said drug-addicted loners made good choices?

My dark urban fantasy/paranormal suspense, UNHOLY GHOSTS, is complete at 83,000 words. It’s a stand-alone novel, but is planned as the first in a series.

December/Stacia said...

Thanks, Sarah! That's pretty much what I've come up with, trying to add more of the spooky black magic stuff. :-)

Thanks, everyone!

Phoenix said...

So, do we call you December or Stacia now? This dual identity thing is just confusing! Pen names! Hmph! :o) December is your erotic romance pen name, isn't it? And Stacia your mainstream name? (I tried to access your website to verify, but your entry point must be a movie file - my firewall wouldn't let me in.)

I liked your shorter version better, too. I'm sure between the two versions and all the comments you've gotten, you'll revise it nicely! Sounds like a fun story.

December/Stacia said...

I think my server is having issues with my site, Phoenix, you're the second person today who's said you're having problems (no movie file or anything on my site, but it's all flash which can create problems). But you're right about the names. :-)

Welshcake said...

I think the short version is much better. I wouldn't not read something about a drug addict who diesn't want to kick her habit. I think it makes her very believable.

I haven't seen "House", but one of my favourite ever TV series was "Cracker" (original UK version) and the lead character was addicted to gambling and booze. Didn't make him any less compelling.

One thing made me pause, though - "Chess' solitary, peaceful life is about to disappear faster than a line of speed."

I'd question whether any addict's life is "peaceful"? Surely there's a lot of running around to find the next fix or hit and pressure about finding the money to support the habit?

Verona St. James said...

Dude. This was just reviewed on Dear Author.

http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2010/05/24/review-unholy-ghosts-by-stacia-kane/