Monday, February 04, 2008

Face-Lift 483


Guess the Plot

Gift of the Phoenix

1. Another tie -- and it's not even his color. Mike Cranston's ingratitude, and rash decision to regift, unleashes the fiery wrath of a mythological creature with frightening powers.

2. Three men--a warrior, a wizard and a peasant--are thrown together on a mission that could save the world. They must work together to protect the magical Phoenix from the cunning one out to steal its immortality: the evil and fearsome mastermind known as . . . the Cunning One.

3. Jeff's mom celebrates his 10th birthday by throwing a costume party with her rowdy friends and relatives. It is a riot: broken furniture, live garage band, drunken parade, and spontaneous combustion of an old Volvo. Next morning as Jeff eats Cheerios on the back porch, a magnificent bird emerges from the blackened car. Adventure ensues.

4. Samantha always wanted to own an exotic bird. When a mysterious admirer sends a live phoenix to Sam’s office, she’s torn between delight and concern. She sends a text message immediately to the number on the card. But when the bird spontaneously bursts into flame and a holographic image of the pizza delivery kid appears, she immediately clicks the unsend button on her cell phone. After that she spends a year in therapy . . . and that’s what this book is really about.

5. As the strange giant egg Mink Xappa found under the mango tree incubates in a basket of feathers, Wizard Suavo Parker fears his broom might not make it across the entire ocean. He's using the ancient map, but will he actually reach the fabled island where phoenixes breed? Or will he soon be fish food? Plus, pirates!

6. Temporarily broke and without transportation, Fred accepts the gift of a 1976 Ford Phoenix. Over the following weeks a pattern emerges: the car runs beautifully in the morning but it breaks down every night, successively stranding Fred at the homes of customers, relatives, and his high school sweetheart. Hilarity ensues, until Fred wonders why he ever accepted the . . . Gift of the Phoenix.


Original Version

Dear Mr. Agent:

In a place where magic is rare and often lies hidden in the deep recesses of the earth, a great power will threaten the world - and few will know of it.

Three strangers are thrust together by a common enemy - the Cunning One - who seeks to steal the immortality and magic of the Phoenix. [Heroes would laugh at a villain called the Cunning One:

Cunning One: Step aside or die, subcreatures.
Heroes: Who the hell are you?
Cunning One: I am known as . . . the Cunning One!
Heroes (rolling on floor): Ha! Ha ha! Hahahahahha!

So would readers. Call her the Archimage.]
But uniting will not be easy for these men. Nicolai, a peasant with a powerful secret, seeks only to protect the woman he loves from danger. [Is she in danger from the Cunning One? If so, why? If not, why is Nicky even involved?] Marcellus, warrior prince, rebels against magic and insists only military strength will defeat their enemy. [Wrong. Cunning almost always trumps military might. Rankings of conflict tactics, from least effective to most:

10. Donning colorful uniforms, assembling in a phalanx, and marching directly toward the enemy.

9. Handing over the Sudetenland in return for a promise of peace.

8. Getting involved in a land war in Asia.

7. Recruiting ruthless criminals to fight for you.

6. Cheating.

5. Overwhelming military strength.

4. Cunning.

3. Blowing up enemy's planet with Death Star.

2. Recruiting army of unkillable ghosts and offering them closure.

1. Attacking the enemy's solitary, trivial, inaccessible weak spot.]

Corren, the true heir, is a powerful wizard whose ambitions threaten to ruin them all.

Their quest leads them deep into hidden worlds of magic [Are you sure this is "a place where magic is rare"? We've already encountered the magic of the Phoenix, a powerful wizard, and now hidden worlds of magic.] as they seek to find out what they must do to protect the Phoenix. Once they learn the Cunning One is Corren's powerful sage Aradia, [Presumably Aradia doesn't want it known that she's the villain, so she uses the alias, the Cunning One. Yet the heroes learn she's Aradia almost immediately. Maybe she should have worn a disguise, too.] they fear they are destined to fight a battle they cannot win. But fight they will. They learn the key lies in protecting the Gateway leading to the Phoenix and draw on every magical and military resource to defend it. Meanwhile, Corren understands the thirst for power that drives Aradia, [(the Cunning One)] and fears the same corruptive desires lurk in his own heart.

Struggling to overcome Aradia's betrayal and the strife that still exists between them, they suffer an astouding failure. Aradia shatters through the Gateway [That was easy. What, exactly, did "every magical and military resource" consist of?] and the Three hastily pursue her into the hidden Realm of the Phoenix. There they must unite, or be destroyed. [They weren't united when they were defending the Gateway? What were they doing, arguing about whether to kill the Cunning One with a sword, a pitchfork or a magic wand? ]

GIFT OF THE PHOENIX is a multiple-viewpoint epic fantasy, which takes us deep into the heart of a wondrous world and the three men destined to defend it. I wrote this novel as a stand-alone, but left plenty of room for a sequel which is already loosely planned. [I don't think "already" goes well with "loosely planned." It's not like it normally takes years to loosely plan something. In fact, in the time it took me to type that last sentence I loosely planned a novel about undersea creatures taking over Jamaica. Yes, already.] I have a Bachelor's Degree in Writing from X College, where I also served as Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning literary magazine, X.

I would love to send you part or all of the completed manuscript. Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,


Notes

It would be easier to protect the Phoenix if the warrior prince called on his army of soldiers and the wizard called on his army of lions and wolves. Instead, they have a peasant. What can one peasant do when faced with . . . the Cunning One?

Isn't the Phoenix's magic powerful enough to protect itself? If not, why does the Cunning One want it? Doesn't the Cunning One have powerful magic of her own? She must, or the wizard wouldn't have thought his team was destined to fight a battle they couldn't win.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would read #s 1 and 6.

pjd said...

I can not comment on the query at this moment because I am sitting in amused awe at the blue text. Well done, EE.

One thing you missed though:

"Corren, the true heir, is a powerful wizard whose ambitions threaten to ruin them all."

True heir of what? And if he's the true heir then what is Marcellus prince of?

OK, one comment on the query: This seems to suffer a malady similar to my recent face lift fodder. You talk about this happening and then that happening and then the other happening, but take a long look at EE's GTP and start over from that. Too bogged down in names and details such that the actual story gets a bit lost. I get the sense there's a reasonably simple plot with some reasonably complex characters and a lot of conflict both external and internal, but I got lost in all the details.

I think it might have been Dave F that told me to step back and look at the forest for a bit and ignore all those trees getting in the way. Seems like you might benefit from a similar exercise.

Again I say well done, EE. Especially the top 10 list. Though I'm not sure "archimage" is the right word for The Cunning One... makes me think of photos of landmarks in Paris. Can't wait to read your Jamaica book.

verification word: njghjiba
A good title for your loosely planned Jamaica book. Maybe.

Anonymous said...

This is so generic. Have you actually written the book?

Phoenix said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
McKoala said...

Hey phoenix, look at all these name checks for you!!!

December/Stacia said...

The Archimage made me wonder if the Bettimage and the Veronicamage would be along at some point too.


Ba dum bum.

Xenith said...

Someone somewhere, possibly one of the agents blogs, said a query should show how your novel is different to all the other novels that deal with similar topics.

I'm not getting that here.

A group of characters trying to save the world from a great power that few know about is a common storyline in epic fantasy. I've read enough of them, and I'm sure far more never get published.

So why is this one different?

Robin S. said...

"9. Handing over the Sudetenland in return for a promise of peace."

"...In fact, in the time it took me to type that last sentence I loosely planned a novel about undersea creatures taking over Jamaica. Yes, already."

These are so funny. I keep snickering and irritating my daughter, who's been tasked with writing four stanzas to include alliteration and assonance.
Kinda fun, really.

DragonChick said...

Thanks for the critique EE and pjd. I'm definitely having a hard time seeing the forest for the trees. I have one version - one of about a hundred, it feels like - which lays out the basic premise, but I was told I needed more details. It's hard to know what to do. Anyway, I really appreciate the advice! I'll keep plugging away. (And yes, the book is written.)

Evil Editor said...

I keep snickering and irritating my daughter, who's been tasked with writing four stanzas to include alliteration and assonance.

That assignment sounds like a lot of assonance.

ME said...

This Cunning One -- a linguist I presume??

I was confused by all the blue comments and really had to work to make sense of the plot. BTW, Love the List!! Was #1 a ref to Tora Bora??

Anyhow, I really posted here to restate my "WOODY" guess, which I've already posted in Robin's writing exercise comments: Robin: Wonderwood?? (although now that I think about it "Batman" would make sense too!!! Er, the old-fashioned wooden bats)

Phoenix said...

Brilliant title. I wouldn't change a word of it. :o)

Xenith said it exactly. What's different about this story? I did a rewrite to see if I could think of a way to make the story sound different and more exciting. I'm afraid, based on what you've given us here, I didn't succeed. The climax, especially, falls really flat. If you have some unique hook (other than that fabulous Phoenix!), put it out there, front and center.

Hidden in the deep recesses of the world, the magic of the Phoenix -- long a foundation of the empire -- bides. Tempted by the legend's power, the sage Aradia devises a cunning scheme to steal its magic and claim its immortality.

Her pawns: A peasant who knows the Phoenix's one weakness, and may trade that knowledge to protect the woman he loves. A warrior prince who scoffs at magic and gambles his reputation on military might. And a powerful wizard whose ambitions threaten to ruin them all.

Under Aradia's influence, the men set out in uneasy truce to stop the one they know only as "the Cunning One" from finding and violating the magic that holds their empire together. But [obstacle one] and [obstacle two], as well as their own animosity toward one another, threaten their success.

Then, at the Gateway, where the mundane world and the magical realm collide, Aradia's true nature outs and the men discover they've been betrayed. Their only chance to save the empire now is to protect the way leading to the Phoenix. But when the men clash over whether to use magic or military strength to stop her, Aradia takes advantage of that moment of indecision. Shattering the Gateway, she charges into the Realm of the Phoenix with the men in hasty pursuit. In their race to save the empire, the men must find a way to unite -- or be destroyed.

GIFT OF THE PHOENIX is a multiple-viewpoint epic fantasy. Complete at 120,000 words, it's a stand-alone with series potential. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Writing from X College, where I also served as Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning literary magazine, X.

I would love to send you part or all of the manuscript. Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.


Try posting one the other 99 versions and see what the minions think of it. Maybe between the two, we can all come up with something that really grabs!

OMG. EE. I do love your top 10 lists. And you even snuck in an allusion to LOTR *heart flutters*. This title, your list. My night is complete.

DragonChick said...

Oh, I did forget to say that the list of 10 cracked me up! :)

Thanks for your comment xenith. That's good to know.

Anonymous said...

Why would they fight a battle they are destined to lose? Oh, I get it. It was the president of the Canada’s idea.

talpianna said...

I agree that we need more about the Phoenix. (And the Scottsdale. And the Glendale. And the Tempe...)

More seriously, we need to know how its magic underpins the world, how and why it can be stolen, and why a creature which is essentially a self-igniting tactical nuclear weapon can't defend itself.

Names: Archimage is EE's play on the principal villain of The Faerie Queene, Archimago, symbolizing hypocrisy. (In fact, he was the original Oaf of Hypocrisy.) Aradia is the (probably invented) goddess of the witches. "Archmage" (no i) is usually a title rather than a proper name. "The Cunning One" sounds more like a Trickster figure than an outright villain. Why not call her something more appropriate, like "Evileditress"?

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Ha! #6!

TruuUUuuuue Love...

DragonChick said...

Glad you like the title Phoenix, ;) and thanks for the generous offer. It was hard to pick another version cuz I still can't see the forest for the trees, but I settled on this one. It's pretty rough but it should give you a little more information about the story. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


Three strangers are thrust together by three mysterious stones, the knowledge that they’re actually brothers, and a common enemy who seeks to steal the immortality and magic of the Phoenix. But uniting will not be easy for these men. Nicolai had lived as a peasant, but his hidden friendship with earth faeries imbues him with a knowledge of the earth’s secrets. Marcellus, the warrior prince who is no longer heir to the throne, rebels against magic and insists only military strength will defeat their enemy. Corren, the eldest brother, is a powerful wizard whose ambitions threaten to ruin them all.

As the Phoenix’s regeneration and only time of vulnerability nears, their quest to find out what they must do to protect it, what role their elusive stones play, and who their enemy truly is leads them deep into worlds of hidden magic. Once they learn their enemy is Corren’s powerful sage, Aradia, they fear they are destined to fight a battle they cannot win. But fight they will. They decide they must prevent Aradia from breaking through the magical Gateway leading to the Realm of the Phoenix, and draw on every military and magical resource available to defend it.

Meanwhile, Corren understands the thirst for power which drives Aradia, and fears the same corruptive desires lurk in his own heart. Struggling to release his ambitions (which include the crown meant for Marcellus), Corren realizes his stone may grant them victory but claim his life in the process.

Struggling to overcome Aradia’s betrayal, her horrific evil, and the strife which still exists between them, they suffer an astounding failure. Aradia shatters through the Gateway and the Three ultimately confront her in the Realm of the Phoenix where they must unite, or perish.

DragonChick said...

LOL! Evileditress is DEFINITELY her new name! Actually, she doesn't call herself the Cunning One - it's just how she is referred to in a warning delivered by the Phoenix. I can see how that was confusing though, so I'm just taking "the Cunning One" out of the query. The Phoenix is only vulnerable as it is dying, before it regenerates, so that is why it needs defenders. I don't know if that comes across in the other version I posted - of if that's even enough information.

Am I even speaking in complete sentences? My brain is so fried, LOL.

Wonderwood said...

Late to the party as usual, I can't offer any comments that haven't already been made but I'll chime in on "the list". Laughed my ass off.

Phoenix's rewrite would be a good place to start, author. Fill it in with some story details and I think it would take legs.

ME, what'd I do? I'm just sitting here minding my own business. Robin does have some imagination, though.

Phoenix said...

Hey Dragonchick, maybe think cause and effect as you do revision 101. When A happens, B results. Here are some things I think are missing from both versions:

What Talpianna said about needing to know more about the Phoenix. We know its vulnerability and that it possesses magic and immortality. But why must it be protected? What happens if it isn't protected? What are the stakes for the land or the world, which is what epic fantasy is all about? Why are the men willing to risk themselves to protect it?

Aradia feels like a very stock villain. She wants to claim the Phoenix's powers to what end? Does she want to be a ruler? Are Mar and Cor's inheritances threatened by her? What makes her a villain I want to read about? Telling me she's a horrific evil isn't good enough. What horrific evil will she do once she has Phoenix Power?

What happens in the middle of the story? Notice the [Obstacle 1] and [Obstacle 2] in my rewrite? What happens on the way to find the Phoenix? We go from the Phoenix somehow being in danger for vague reasons to the men materializing at the Gateway

If Corren is such a powerful wizard, why do they think they can't win the battle against a powerful sage? Are sages more powerful than wizards?

Good call in ditching the stones in query 1. In the second query, they're just annoying.

If you aren't going to explain something in the query, don't bring it up. For ex, Nic's lady love in the first version (who is she and why is her life endangered?) or that he's had a hidden friendship with earth faeries (why hidden?).

In both versions, Gateway and Realm of the Phoenix (some trees you're seeing) don't carry much meaning for the reader. You want to give a peek into the world you've created, but you need to be a bit more concrete in your descriptions. Both queries use the term "hidden magic" but I'm clueless what that means. What happens in the hidden magic worlds and in the Realm of the Phoenix? Does the magic in these realms start doing funny things to people with magic?

It seems like a LOT to cram into a query letter when the questions are laid out like this, but with careful word choice, careful editing, and a bit of sentence rearranging, you can get a lot of these concepts in without increasing your word count.

The biggest takeaway here is that if this is epic fantasy, the overall stakes must be bigger than the lives of the brothers, though they must play out the drama in microcosm. Tell us what those stakes are in the query.

Good luck!

Robin S. said...

Yeah, EE, that exercise, slong with many others in her class, are full of ass-onance.

A few times Blondie's come home and said something like: Sarag-Sally-Becky asked Mrs. Foolface how her explanation of (similes, metaphors, assonance, whatever, just pick on...) could be true, when blah, blah, blah (good blahs, the kids had punched holes in her explanation). It pisses tge teacher off. This would be the teacher that pronounced Penelope, PIN-a-lope. Yeah.

And this is supposed to be an excellent school district.

DragonChick said...

Thanks so much Phoenix! That was very helpful!!

Whirlochre said...

Forgive me, but unless the final outcome of this epic fantasy turns on the subtlest of million-to-one anomalies in the Dwarven Cheese Cycle or the lapsed amnesia of an unfamiliar familiar (and these are crub, crub examples, I know) then I remain interested, yet unbeguiled.

Perhaps it's in the nature of synopses about world-girdling tales of myriad armies and empires, with all their their nefarious subterfuge - particularly if magic is involved - that the ironing restrictions of a brief summary must necessarily flatten out more of the interesting wrinkles than
would be the case with the (say) eagerly flashed harlot's knickers of a Whodunnit.

So - I concur with others - Xenith in particular - that this all sounds a little too familiar, and I
would hope that, in being a synopsis, it hath but an unfortunate exchange a-madeth twixt the tickling of the general fancy and the lopping off of very specific bollocks.

Pater said...

...is a multiple-viewpoint epic fantasy...

My question is, is it necessary to state this in a query with multiple main characters? I would think that if the PoV delivery style was really unique then it would be something to mention (or convey in the actual story description), but otherwise just wastes words.

I ask because my current work essentially alternates between two characters chapter by chapter and this query has me wondering if this is something that I need to convey to the agent ahead of time. Thanks.

Evil Editor said...

Unless the story is told in first person, there's nothing noteworthy about having more than one POV character, and no mention is necessary.