Thursday, February 07, 2008
Guess the Plot
Death and Taxes
1. All work and no pay. A penny saved is a penny earned. Just do it. Another day older and deeper in debt. The sky is falling. Another day, another dollar. Farmer Bob Jones deconstructs popular economic theories as he drives his combine across Kansas.
2. Jim "the butcher" Takamini has the Yakuza horning in on his sushi business. But when the IRS decides to do an audit, he learns there's one thing even more inevitable than death and taxes: the wrath of his mother-in-law.
3. Tax collector Ryan Conner doesn't know why no one in Colmera Springs ever pays taxes, but he's going to put a stop to it, even if it means throwing the whole town into jail. Maybe Conner would have thought twice if he'd known the truth: that the residents of Colmera Springs are all . . . zombies!
4. A glamrock tribute band from Des Moines gets attacked by a skinhead mob in the reptile house of the Amsterdam zoo. When they flee through the red light district, a chance encounter with an IRS agent and a Puerto Rican undertaker becomes their only hope of getting safely back to Des Moines.
5. Desperate for revenue, the federal government pushes through legislation that makes "you can't take it with you" legally binding. Souls are not allowed to pass on until all taxes are settled in full. But Harry Needleman would rather spend eternity in limbo than let the government get its hands on his last fifty dollars.
6. Jacqueline poisons her husband, Jerome, to collect on his $100,000 insurance policy. But getting away with murder isn't all it's cracked up to be when it turns out Jerome owes over $200,000 in back taxes. Not only that, it turns out the IRS is more irritating than Jerome ever was.
Dear Evil Editor,
I would like to offer my manuscript, Death and Taxes, complete at 55,000 words, to you for review and consideration for representation.
No one in the forgotten town of Colmera Springs has paid taxes in 160 years. [160 years ago, no one in any U.S. town was paying taxes. The income tax became constitutional in 1913. There were brief periods of income tax from 1862 - 68, and 1894- 95. Internal taxes on tobacco and alcohol existed in various periods, but 160 years ago, government was financed by tariffs on imported goods.] No one has ever come to collect, and no one there ever bothers to file. Toby, Danita and the other residents would rather just play a game of Eats with whoever happens by.
Ryan Conner is a tax collector. Armed with rubber stamp, ballpoint pen, and his new secretary Clarice, he greatly enjoys serving notices and seizing assets. The fact that his newest target – Colmera Springs – is inhabited by zombies makes no difference. [Or does it? If you died last year you have to pay taxes on last year, but if you died 160 years ago, I think you're clear.] They didn't even bother to file an extension! [Of course zombies don't file; the tax laws for zombies are too strict. For instance, to take the deduction for business meals, a zombie is required to obtain a receipt from the person whose brains he eats. And don't get me started on Schedule Z, Depreciation of Body Parts.] At the first sight of Toby, Clarice is more than ready to leave the mountain town, go home and find a new job. Her boss however, never backs down, and he has the keys to the car.
Ryan ends up infected [Zombiefied. If you don't use the technical terminology you look like a hack.], Clarice and her boyfriend Nick are taken for questioning when the government steps in, and most of the zombies are shot in the head. Everyone is taken underground to the Tau Seven Research Facility.
Observations and testing quickly commence using everything from samples, [Samples of what?] to parfaits,
[Sir, we've captured a zombie. Shall we begin testing to determine how he was able to reanimate?
Later. First let's observe his reaction to a strawberry parfait.]
to ballpoint pens that attract zombies. Clarice and Nick attempt an escape that results in a cascade of system failures – effectively letting Toby and Danita out of their cells. The last survivors of Colmera Springs repopulate their numbers utilizing research personnel.
With new freedom, Toby seeks out his own ballpoint pen while Danita quickly organizes a new game of Eats. Clarice and Nick must now try and escape the facility while playing fetch for the surviving scientists who want data tapes and the UCK (Universe Creation Kit). [You're losing me.] Soon however, everyone involved – human and living dead alike – must deal with Ryan. He has succumbed to his infection, but retained his identity. As he is now both Death and Taxes, nothing stops him.
For over a decade I have paid taxes, and am well familiar with how annoying they are. I have even used ballpoint pens when needed, and the occasional rubber stamp. During my three years as a chaplain, I have also been around a number of corpses (though none have [has] walked, yet). [As a chaplain you should know enough to call them vitality-challenged beings, rather than corpses. I mean, would you speak to a group at a viewing by saying, Joe was a wonderful man and it would please him greatly to know so many of you have turned out to see his corpse.]
Thank you for your time and consideration. I would be happy to send a copy of the completed manuscript for your review. I look forward to hearing from you.
It should be shortened. I would ditch the part about being held captive for experiments and escaping. After the long Ryan paragraph you can say something like:
The government steps in to help clean up Colmera Springs, but for every zombie they kill, Toby and Danita manage to zombiefy two government agents. When Taxman Ryan is himself zombiefied, both humans and undead are in trouble, for Ryan is now the most unstoppable force on the planet: Death and Taxes. Can Toby and Danita somehow destroy Ryan and salvage their freedom from taxation?
Of course that Death and Taxes line is basically just a gag, but I get the impression it's a gag in the book as well. On the other hand it's pretty lame, so maybe you sould at least ditch it from the query.
The part about government experiments has a more serious tone than the opening. It seems to have switched from a comedy to a thriller. Possibly you can pull that off in the book, but I'd stick with one genre in the query.