Friday, January 02, 2009

Face-Lift 588

Guess the Plot

Azrael's Curse

1. Tyler Azrael knows the deadly secret of Anne Baskerville, the matinee idol who made her fortune in her lingerie, but he will never reveal what it is --unless hypnotized by a particular bit of music -- the tune that makes all Azraels talk, thanks to a curse laid on them in 1244 by a wand-waving schoolmaster. Tyler is flattered when Anne's beautiful nemesis, Jane Durong, challenges him to a game of musical chairs -- but danger lurks!

2. As Viggo the Terrible closes in on tiny Waldidge Castle, the family curse of the Queen's secret paramour, Azrael Linguini, causes him to disclose his position with an unfortunate fart and he is nearly smote asunder by Viggo's minions, who decide to take him prisoner and torture him until he reveals the whereabouts of the tiny Prince. Will another gaseous emission overpower the torture mistress and save Azrael?

3. When Hagai comes into possession of a stone that was once owned by the legendary pirate Azrael--a stone that can tell the future--he wonders if it's more trouble than it's worth, especially when Sam the Sky Sailor decides he wants the stone for himself. Sam manages to steal the stone, which annoys Hagai, so he offers to join Sam's crew, which Sam agrees to. Can these two possibly learn to work together with air pirates and the police chasing them?

4. Amos Azrael cannot tell a lie, thanks to the curse of a witch he cheated on in 1734. This would be bad in ordinary times, but when he realizes the only way to save England from a zombie horde is to get Queen Victoria to marry their leader, it makes his task impossible. Will Wales fall next? Or Scotland?

5. When Dr. Watson warned accountant Belinda Jameson her warts were Azrael's Curse and she must soak in healing waters spewed by the lost Rimbimala geyser, or be blemished forever -- she tried plastic surgery. Too bad it didn't work. Now she's studying antique maps of Amazonia and preparing to embark into wildest Ecuador. Will she ever find that geyser? Or will she vanquish a drug cartel, tame a screaming monkey, and marry Arturo, the suavest guide in the Andes?

6. The Prince of Darkness stubs his toe on the bedstead one night and curses half the world's population to continually re-enact the musical "Pump Boys and Dinettes." Can Sister Theresa the Novitiate pray the world back to sanity or will half the human race die in second-rate musical production numbers?



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Hagai's mother died eighteen years ago – or so he thought, until he receives a package bearing her signature. The package contains a stone capable of telling the future

and sets him on a journey he never thought he'd take, facing sky sailors and air pirates who want the stone for themselves. [Gimme that rock. I trust it to know what's going to happen in the future.] He can't let the sky'lers have it, but wishes he could when he's just about crushed by an airship, almost beaten to death by pirates, and nearly knifed by a wanted sky'ler named Sam Draper – and that's only the first day. [Did the rock tell him any of this stuff was gonna happen? Because if not, I'd happily hand it over to Draper.]

When Sam nicks the stone from him, Hagai does the bravest thing he's ever done: he demands it back. [When your enemy is holding a rock, it's seldom a good idea to demand that he give it to you.] Sam refuses, of course, but Hagai surprises them both by asking to fly with Sam. For reasons of his own, Sam agrees. Now Hagai, who grew up wanting nothing to do with sky'lers, is crew to one and fugitive from both pirates and police. He won't give up until he finds his mother… if she's still alive. [He just received a package from her. Either she didn't die eighteen years ago . . . or the postal service in this place needs a serious upgrade.]

Azrael's Curse is a 110,000-word work of science fiction, available on request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


[Note on the title: The stone, which seems to bring more trouble than help, was once the property of the legendary air pirate Azrael. Both Azrael and the stone mysteriously disappeared about four years before the story begins.]


Notes

Something about the tone/content makes it seem like a book for kids. Maybe you should work in the where and when and Hagai's current age and some higher-level-of-sophistication plot point. Like, what's the bad part about Sam knowing the future? Does he want to rule the world?

22 comments:

BuffySquirrel said...

Doesn't seem very science-fictiony, unless the stone is actually an artefact of some kind. More like Fantasy.

I think I need more than "reasons of his own" for Sam agreeing to take on this guy he's just stolen from. I mean, it must be obvious to him it's a plot to keep close enough to get the stone back. Right? Beware plot points that depend on characters acting stupidly.

Khazar-khum said...

Love, love, love the picture!!!!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a picture book for the grade schoolers. There are so many kid books with protagonists who get involved with "sky pirates" these days, you need a lot more plot than this to distinguish yours from the generic.

150 said...

Seems like a fortune-telling stone would be easy to hang on to. "Stone, when is someone going to try to steal you?" "Four thirty on the poop deck." So either Hagai isn't very good at using it--in which case I'm not sure I want to read 110k about him--or the stone isn't that powerful--in which case I'm not sure I care who controls it. Maybe with more detail about how things went down, I'd change my mind. I always like to see a query written in strictly cause-and-effect terms; try that.

Good luck!

acpaul said...

I liked choice #1 better than the actual plot. And as as SF&F type myself, I can say that ain't sci fi. Young adult fantasy is what I'd call it.

Kiolia said...

I can see it being science fiction depending on the depiction of skysailing, but you could also just call it speculative and be done, couldn't you?

Please, please come up with better slang than Sky'ler for skysailer.

writtenwyrdd said...

I think you have a lot of what you need, but it's not all there yet with this letter.

You tell us a number of interesting details, but not what's at stake. That's key, and you shouldn't be coy about it. Why does his mom's note send him haring off, ask to crew a skyler ship when he'd rather not and what happens if he doesn't succeed? It could be anything from seeking his mother, rescuing her, finding out she's dead but has a last request, or revenging her death.

And this sounds like fantasy, not sf. If you have high tech and it's truly sf, you need to show why this tale is sf in the letter, too.

All in all, it sounds like it could be a good story,b ut the query doesn't tell us what the story is about, just a bit of what happens.

Adam Heine said...

Author here. Thanks for your comments so far. You guys are great. Scary, and sometimes brutal, but great.

I guess I can answer some of the questions and let you all have fun with trying to improve it (while I do the same over here, of course).

Re: sci-fi. I agree the query doesn't sound sci-fi. Heck, the novel itself has a fantasy feel a lot of the time, but the background of everything is based on the real. Kinda like McCaffrey's Dragonrider books. I would prefer to say "speculative," but then there's some agents who rep fantasy only, some who rep sci-fi only... I guess I'm asking if it's okay to just say speculative.

Re: Sam taking on the guy he just robbed. Sam's an experienced skyler, a fighter, while Hagai's essentially a lazy bookworm who wouldn't know how to hurt a fly even if he wanted to. Sam knows this. He's not concerned, but he needs Hagai for other reasons. Specifically, Sam only ever sees one future in the stone, while Hagai keeps seeing various, more immediate (i.e. more useful) futures. Sam keeps Hagai around to look in the stone for him.

Re: the stone. It is powerful, but nobody knows how to control it. It shows visions seemingly at random, and some people never see any at all. Even so, everybody who knows about it wants it.

Re: the reason for Hagai's journey. Basically, he grew up thinking his mom was dead. He suddenly gets this package implying she is alive and trying to tell him something. It's his only link to her, and he becomes obsessed with finding her.

I hope that makes sense. I appreciate any help you offer up. If I get to a revision, I'll be sure to post it here as well.

fairyhedgehog said...

I absolutely loved this right from reading the GTP and hoping this was it!

It reads like YA to me and there seem to be some loose ends that you might want to tidy up, for example I wasn't at all clear why Hagai can't let the skylers have the rock.

It sounds like fun and I'd like to read it.

EE - I should know by now that it's not a good idea to drink coffee while reading your edits.

BuffySquirrel said...

By all means call it speculative, but you still might want to indicate in the query that there are SF elements.

writtenwyrdd said...

Sounds like you should bill it as 'science fantasy' because if it walks like a duck (fantasy) and talks like a duck (fantasy) it's really fantasy OR science fantasy. Even it's based on science. I think the key is realizing where it goes on the shelf, so you can attract the readers for that particular flavor of book.

Adam Heine said...

That's exactly the problem, writtenwyrdd. There is no "science fantasy" section :-)

I think BuffySquirrel's probably right. I'll call it speculative, mention sci-fi elements, and beyond that let the manuscript speak for itself.

Anonymous said...

science fantasy gets shelved with fantasy,of course.

Jennifer said...

Assuming the symbolism of Azrael is intentional, I'm curious how it manifests itself in the story.

BuffySquirrel said...

Anon is right; SF & F all gets shelved together.

Adam Heine said...

If there are still folks reading this, try this version:

Dear Agent:

For Hagai’s 21st birthday, he receives a stone that gives chance visions of the future. He has no idea why his mother sent it to him – or how, since she was supposedly killed eighteen years ago. Determined to find out, Hagai sets off on a journey he never thought he’d take, facing sky sailors and air pirates who want the stone for themselves. If the sky’lers take it, he’ll have no way to find his mother, but to keep it Hagai faces being crushed by an airship, being beaten to death by pirates, and having his throat slit by a wanted sky’ler named Sam Draper – and that’s only the first day.

When Sam nicks the stone from him, Hagai does the bravest thing he’s ever done: he asks for it back. Sam refuses, of course, but Hagai surprises them both by asking to fly with him. Unable to make the stone work himself, Sam agrees. Now Hagai, who grew up wanting nothing to do with sky’lers, is crew to one and fugitive from both pirates and police. Harrowed by constant visions of his own death, Hagai is nonetheless determined to change the future and find his mother, if she’s still alive.

Azrael’s Curse is a 110,000-word science fantasy novel, available on request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

fairyhedgehog said...

Rather than "Hagai sets off on a journey he never thought he'd take" can you say what he sets off to do - I'm guessing it's to find his mother.

For some reason "Hagai does the bravest thing he's ever done - he asks for it back" doesn't quite work for me.

I like it that he has to sail with the skylers and flee the pirates and the police in order to find his mother - it does sound like a fun adventure.

Evil Editor said...

Yes, asks for it back doesn't sound brave at all. The original said "demands it back," which sounds braver, though it still doesn't sound like the bravest thing a guy could have done. If the point is that he's never done anything brave, it's not coming across. What's coming across is that requesting his stone back is really brave. Which seems strange unless you've convinced us that Sam Draper is the meanest man in the county.

JLR said...

Interesting query. I assume it's for young adult audiences. It sounds pretty original too. The opening two lines are really good, in that they start with a hook (a mystery) and add onto it, instead of stopping to explain it.

I have a nitpicky comment on this line: "sets him on a journey he never thought he'd take, facing sky sailors and air pirates who want the stone for themselves." The journey he never thought he'd take has vague wording. I suggest cutting words and just saying something like: "sets him on a journey facing sky sailors and air pirates who want the stone for themselves." Also, I didn't like the "When Sam nicks the stone" paragraph. In part because it slows down some and gives an synopsis like detail instead of the "blurb" or "pitch" tone I was getting up to that point. That and the fact that his search for his mother feels kinda tacked on there.

Hope that helps.

Jodi

Adam Heine said...

If the point is that he's never done anything brave, it's not coming across.

Clearly that's the problem with that line. Thank you.

Thanks for all the comments. Back to the Word doc.

Adam Heine said...

Again, if there are folks still following, I'd like to submit version #3:

Dear Agent:

It’s Hagai’s 21st birthday, a fact he recalls only as one might remember the bank is closed, or today is a Tuesday, so he’s surprised to receive a stone that gives chance visions of the future. He has no idea why his mother sent it to him – or how, since she was supposedly killed eighteen years ago. In the hopes she’s alive, Hagai sets off to find her on a journey he never thought he’d take, facing sky sailors and air pirates who want the stone for themselves. If the sky’lers take it he’ll have no way to find his mother, but to keep it Hagai faces being crushed by an airship, being beaten to death by pirates, and having his throat slit by a wanted sky’ler named Sam Draper – and that’s only the first day.

Before this day, Hagai’s never done anything braver than put peppers in his stew. Now, when Sam nicks the stone, Hagai tracks him down and demands it back – politely, of course, because Sam still has a knife. When Sam refuses, Hagai surprises them both by asking to fly with him. Unable to make the stone work himself, Sam agrees. Now Hagai, who grew up wanting nothing to do with sky’lers, is crew to one and fugitive from both pirates and police. Harrowed by visions of his own death, Hagai is nonetheless determined to change the future and find his mother, if she’s still alive.

Azrael’s Curse is a 110,000-word science fantasy novel, available on request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

fairyhedgehog said...

This is coming clearer but with a couple of places where I stumbled a bit. Bear in mind that these are my personal reactions, so for what it's worth:

I got held up by "a fact he recalls only as one might remember the bank is closed, or today is a Tuesday,". I got caught up with trying to make sense of it and lost the thread.

I also stumbled on "Before this day" in the next paragraph and I wasn't sure you needed it.

I really liked the fact that you drew out that he has to track Sam down to demand it back - it makes it clearer to me what's involved.