Monday, May 19, 2008

Face-Lift 528


Guess the Plot

Flight of Faith

1. After Sherrie and Pierre witness a Shrimpocalyps, they have to face "Four-Eyes", the head prawn with flying surfboards, shrimp forks and lobster hammers. Can they make sushi out of the invaders? Or will Earth sail into galactic domination by crusty demons.

2. During a pre-Armageddon warm-up bout with the demon Azazel above Roswell, the angel Gabriel develops severe acrophobia. Grounded and pretending to be human, he must face his fears and soar back to heaven before the seraphim destroy the Earth searching for him. When he encounters a beautiful UFOlogist he realizes he's going to need more than a wing and a prayer to get back home.

3. A disillusioned young English woman heedlessly roams the lands of Europe and Asia trying to discover the spirituality within herself. But can she escape the arms of Jonathan Miller, who will follow her to the ends of the Earth for her hand in marriage? Does she even want to?

4. When an army of soul-eating demons is unleashed on a gardener, she heads for the hills, not realizing that the forces of primordial evil will find her wherever she goes. Is her faith enough to sustain her in her battle to save civilization from the entity known as . . . the Keeper?

5. Seth always trusted his mischievous brothers: Wibur and Orville. One day they brought Seth to the edge of a cliff and explained, "It's simple physics: You run fast, jump off the cliff, and flap your arms as fast as you can." Seth never achieved flight. In this Alternative History Novel I document the murder trial of Wibur and Orville Wright. Will their act of fratricide alter the course of human history, or will their wiley lawyer prove that Seth "Deserved what he got"?

6. A priest, a rabbi, and a Buddhist monk are the only passengers on a small airplane. When the engine fails, the pilot bails out. There are only 2 parachutes left. Hilarity ensues.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

If faith in a higher power gives much of civilization a reason to get out of bed in the morning, then what would happen if someone – or something – could extinguish it?

In FLIGHT OF FAITH, when a local man known for his devout faith denounces the church, Lia Danovin pays him a visit. In return, he tries to hill her. [To hill her? I think you mean to mount her.] And he’s not alone. [Every guy in town wants to mount Lia.] After a well-timed letter offers means of escape, Lia is forced to flee her quiet life as a gardener when the Keeper, tired of life in the underworld, unleashes his protégé and an army of soul-eating demons. [Unleashes them on Lia? Unleashing your army of soul-eating demons on Lia the gardener may seem like a good way to build their confidence, but if they succeed, big deal, and if they somehow fail, they'll never live down the humiliation. It's a no-win situation, like the New York Yankees taking on a T-ball team.]

As a fugitive, Lia meets Delina, an eccentric vagabond-warrior, and Tavoris, a demoted soldier, who lead her on a frantic search for guidance. [Hi guys. There's an army of soul-eating demons hot on my trail. Care to join me?] While the earth quakes, cities riot and citizens vanish, Lia must unite with four strangers against the primordial evil that somehow finds her wherever she hides. But even as the ancient powers of the world awaken to guide her, her four allies begin to crumble. [I think I can speak for Lia when I say, As long as you ancient powers of the world are awake, how about instead of offering me guidance you crush the primordial evil that keeps finding me?] Without them, Lia’s odds diminish - [Her odds of survival? Or of defeating the primordial evil? Is she trying to defeat the evil or just trying to escape?] and as she begins to question her own long-held faith, she unwittingly threatens the very bonds between civilization and its Maker.

FLIGHT OF FAITH, my first novel, is a completed, 85,000-word fantasy that explores the intricacies of faith, friendship and how the inexorable desire for love can backfire. The manuscript is available for your review upon request. Thank you for your consideration.


Notes

What was Lia's purpose in visiting the guy who renounced his faith?

I don't get a good idea of why Lia is so important to the Keeper or what the stakes are.

Does the Keeper play a role after unleashing his minions? He seems to disappear from the query, even though he's the coolest character.

I'd either elaborate on the "well-timed letter" or leave it out.

24 comments:

freddie said...

What does Lia have or do that she deserves the wrath of the Keeper? And what's so boring about life in the Underworld?

I don't think she should be on a search for guidance. Too abstract. You need an amulet or a watch that runs backward or something. And while you're at it, give the Keeper a scar.

BuffySquirrel said...

I don't get how faith is being extinguished.

Dave F. said...

It might help for you to answer some questions:

...how the inexorable desire for love can backfire.
There's a love story here?

What's the difference between the Keeper, the Keeper's Protege, and a army of soul sucking demons?

Unleashes Havoc: Is this like Shakesperean unleshing - “Cry 'Havoc', and let slip the dogs of war, that this foul deed shall smell above the earth with carrion men, groaning for burial”
Or is it like unleashing the Queer Eye guys on some poor straight slob's pig pen of a house and letting them rummage through his soiled underwear?

Why does Lia care that a local man renounced his faith? Why does she go to see him? Is this like those "I saw Jesus/Mary/God in an oil stain, or burnt toast, or on a tree, or whatever their miraculous revelation happens to be? If she sees a man who renounces faith, her faith is restored? This doesn't seem to be reasonable. If I quit believing in a god, does that god disappear? Neil Gaiman's American Gods deals with that age-old problem - neglected gods.

I thought this was set in my hometown or some tiny suburban US city. But when you say "vagabond warrior" and "demoted soldier" I get the feeling that this is set in a different world. A world without cars and with lots of horses who create huge, stinking dung piles.

"The ancient powers of the world" Cthulhu? Leviathan? Oceanus? Coeus? Hyperion? Gaia? The Worm Ouroboros?

Anonymous said...

OMG "mount her"!!! I think the neighbours heard me laughing!

150 said...

A priest, a rabbi, and a Buddhist monk walk into a bar. The bartender goes, "What is this, a joke?"

Whirlochre said...

The opening line is clear and punchy — the rest, less so.

I get that there's a primordial evil and Lia and her friends are fighting it. But who is the local man? The Keeper?

It sounds like it has some good elements, but it's a bit of a muddle.

Eccentric vagabond-warrior sounds too multi-class D&D for me.

150 - so the Priest replies "No — we want to get fucking bladdered, mate."

Anonymous said...

Hi all. I'm the author. I just pulled myself up off the floor and am absorbing all of your comments. Even 150's joke. Might add that in my manuscript somewhere, with permission, of course.

Thanks to all of you for your honest feedback and especially your tact. I knew going in that I would need guidance (heh) in understanding what makes a great query letter, but I was still pretty darn nervous.

So...sounds like, among other things, I need to be more specific - as the overview approach leads to leaps of logic (which are all, thankfully, addressed in the book), and I need to NOT be afraid to give away some surprises (right?)

This is really frustrating. Mr./Ms. Wolfe, I will try not to let it get me down, but JEEZ did I miss the mark or what??

I will absolutely rewrite and appreciate everyone's willingness to shred, er, take another look. :) I agree, Kiersten, that this is a great resource.

Thanks again.

pacatrue said...

Anon Author, I don't think your query was all that hideous. There's really one main problem -- why do we (and the Keeper and everyone else in tehs tory) care about Lia particularly? If you can explain this, then everything else is tweaking.

Kiersten said...

Anonymous! It's you! Anyway, nathanbransford.blogspot.com and pubrants.blogspot.com both offer great advice on how to put together a good query. I recommend looking it over if you haven't already. EE is the best resource, but if you come with an already strong query, it's even more helpful.

(I don't want EE to think I'm cheating on him with other blogs...)

Evil Editor said...

There are other blogs?

Kiersten said...

Only mine.

Dave F. said...

Anonymous,
We want you to succeed. We want you to write a good query and get published. Never lose sight of that.

PS. And we have a little bit if fun doing it.

Wonderwood said...

Author, if this is your first try at a query, props to you. You've obviously done some research. With the suggestions here as a guide and a little tweaking you'll have a polished query with just a few more iterations.

I prefer not to think about the queries I wrote for my first novel (which wasn't ready for publication, anyway, but what the hell, we live and learn don't we?), and I hope that if I query any of the same agents, they won't remember my first attempt as the worst query they've ever seen, and so perversely bad that the writer of it could not possibly ever learn to write, and therefore automatically blackball me for life. Tell me they won't remember, EE.

Keep working at it, author, and good luck.

talpianna said...

Everything is explained, including Lia's decision to visit the man who's lost his faith, by one simple fact:

Lia is a Jehovah's Witness.

Author said...

New Version:


Dear Evil Editor:

Lia Falwin spent years cultivating a normal life, complete with surrogate family, good friends and a strong faith. She’s through battling personal demons and wants nothing more than to remain exactly where she is. When a local man denounces the Maker at temple – her temple – Lia investigates and becomes determined to set him straight. But when she offers him her help, he tries to kill her.

His botched attempt just may have saved her life; as Lia flees, darker and more dangerous forces are closing in - hooded forces with spiked teeth and very bad breath. With the unexpected help of several strangers, Lia discovers her pursuers aren’t free agents; they’re following orders, and as she begins to comprehend the depth and breadth of their hierarchy, she realizes there is much more at stake than her life.

As Lia and her new friends struggle for more answers, each revelation calls Lia’s own faith deeper into question. She knows she’ll eventually face the hooded nightmares. She can’t run forever; she’s beginning to suspect that each step is drawing her nearer to losing her only effective weapon.

FLIGHT OF FAITH, complete at 8,500 words, is my first novel. The manuscript is available for your review upon request. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

150 said...

I didn't realize what "the Maker" meant until I read the previous version (thought it was some kind of clergy) and I'd like to know what kind of temple she belongs to (Jewish? Mormon? Pagan?), since nothing in the query indicates a setting other than modern-day Earth. I just don't think you're being specific enough. And fix that word count. :)

Evil Editor said...

Most manuscripts need to be cut, but you've cut this one by over 77,000 words.

If the hooded whatevers have gotten close enough that Lia has smelled their breath, they're doing more than just closing in.

What is at stake besides her life? What is her most effective weapon?
What are they looking for answers to? Why are the dangerous forces after her? It wouldn't take much space to answer a few questions, making it less vague.

Julia W. said...

Drat. 85,000. On the bad breath, great point. I'll work on answering your questions - I'm s.l.o.w.l.y. starting to get a feel for this. At the rate I'm going I'll have a query ready by 2045. Thanks for your help EE.

_*Rachel*_ said...

How did his trying to kill her save her? What exactly is at stake? Besides her life, that is. Maybe a few more specifics. Oh, and 8,500 words? Surely you mean 85,000 words?
Disclaimer: I'm not sure I'm any good at all at critiquing queries, so be careful.

Julia Weston said...

150 - thanks. I think I'm worried I'll "give away too much." Clearly not the case.

Rachel - thank you for your comments. Yes, it should be 85,000. And I'm certain you're better at critiquing queries than I am at writing them :)

chelsea said...

Is this geared toward a specific religious audience? Or is it a more general for-anyone-who's-questioned-their-faith type of thing?

Are we supposed to root for Lia or think she is meddling? The line "set him straight" sounds like you think she is right and he is wrong.

I think you are much closer to the mark with this query, but it still inspires several questions.

In the first paragraph, Lia is done battling demons (which makes me wonder what demons she battled before) but she jumps at the chance to get the local man to battle his. This seems in direct opposition to everything leading up to it.

batgirl said...

Just a thought - you might want to start the first para with 'Lia Falwin is through with battling her personal demons', because that sets up your MC as someone who has a troubled past and has come to some sort of peace. And that leads to the expectation that her peace will be shattered.
Then add a bit about what she's achieved (maybe one less item than at present) and suggest that it's compassion that makes her visit the denouncing guy, rather than 'setting him straight' which sounds more self-righteous (if she _is_ self-righteous, maybe make it her gratitude to the Maker that motivates her).

Just my thoughts.

David Eric Tomlinson said...

Lia Falwin spent years cultivating a normal life, complete with surrogate family, good friends and a strong faith. She’s through battling personal demons and wants nothing more than to remain exactly where she is. When a local man denounces the Maker at temple – her temple – Lia investigates and becomes determined to set him straight. But when she offers him her help, he tries to kill her.

This sounds good, but the tone is flat. Can you spice it up a bit? The "bad breath" comment below gives me a hint of Lia's personality ... can you bring more of that into P1?

"Lia Falwin is through battling demons (at least the personal ones). She's finally managed to stay in one place long enough to carve out a relatively normal existence: surrogate family, strong faith, good friends. Lia wants things to stay just as they are.

But when she tries to help a confused Temple-goer better understand the mystical ways of the Maker, things start moving, and not in the right direction. With a botched attempt on her life the only thanks she receives for trying to help out, Lia must now ..."


His botched attempt just may have saved her life; as Lia flees, darker and more dangerous forces are closing in - hooded forces with spiked teeth and very bad breath. With the unexpected help of several strangers, Lia discovers her pursuers aren’t free agents; they’re following orders, and as she begins to comprehend the depth and breadth of their hierarchy, she realizes there is much more at stake than her life.

"... now she's battling more than just demons - she's battling a legion of brainwashed, hooded forces with spiked teeth and a severe case of halitosis. Fortunately she's not alone, a group of strangers ..."

As Lia and her new friends struggle for more answers, each revelation calls Lia’s own faith deeper into question. She knows she’ll eventually face the hooded nightmares. She can’t run forever; she’s beginning to suspect that each step is drawing her nearer to losing her only effective weapon.

What's the weapon? This sounds too vague ... give us a taste of her big dilemma.

FLIGHT OF FAITH, complete at 8,500 words, is my first novel. The manuscript is available for your review upon request. Thank you for your consideration.

85,000 words, maybe? Don't tell them that the manuscript is available - they already know it is or you wouldn't be querying. Save this space for more exciting bits about your novel.

Good luck!

talpianna said...

Just reminding you that in the query, you SHOULD give things away--this is not the place to conceal surprises.