Friday, April 10, 2009

Face-Lift 621


Guess the Plot

Strands of Silver

1. #1-8: the time Timmy ate two boxes of Cheeze-Its for dinner.
#9-71: the time Timmy cried for five hours when the power crashed his computer.
#72-298: the time Timmy claimed the living room to translate The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy into Klingon.

2. Jewel thief Moira Silverhair has planned one final heist, but she's had nothing but bad luck all her life, so why should this go any differently? The good news is, they don't throw twelve-year-old girls in the slammer.

3. When Meredith Blunt, coiffeuse extraordinaire, comes up with the ultimate way to drive the gray away, what she doesn't know is that her latest client is Medusa in mortal guise. Will her hairdressing hubris be squashed by the gods?

4. Not much of a birthday present, Billy thinks, until he opens the shabby old book called Pirates and Castaways, and finds himself magically marooned, condemned to guard Silver Jake's treasure . . . until some other boy opens the book.

5. Christmastime, gentle snow falls, merry Santas, bludgeoned girls whose hair falls over their crushed skulls like strands of silver . . . it's just another day for Rudolph.

6. Her father's gone and told the king she can spin straw into gold . . . but the kingdom went off the gold standard years ago. Can Lia save her life and make the king happy with . . . Strands of Silver?


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Moira Silverhair never thought she would make a living hanging upside down breaking into a third story window to steal a few jewels, but a girl has to eat. [Wouldn't it be easier to break into a first-story kitchen and steal some food?] Despite her best efforts to lead a quiet life of larceny and con-games, [How can you say that someone trying to lead a life of larceny never thought she would make a living stealing jewels (as stated in sentence 1)?] old enemies seem to like nothing more than killing her friends, beating her black and blue and otherwise complicating her life. Strands of Silver, a fantasy complete at 95,000 words is available for your immediate review.

Berrin, god of luck, must have rolled ones when Moira was born. Mother and baby sister dead of black lung fever, father long missing after abandoning her, aunt and uncle murdered by their business partner, alone on the streets of a bustling port town--all before her Trirenia, the celebration of her thirteenth birthday. Every would-be friend and teacher soon enough betrays her or ends up dead. Is Moira a lodestone for bad luck or has the deck been stacked against her? [It sounds like Berrin must have rolled ones when Moira's mother, sister, aunt and uncle, and dead friends were born; they're the most unlucky ones.]

Seven years on the streets teach Moira survival skills and interesting ways to earn some silver, but Berrin seems to enjoy watching her lose every important stake. One final heist to insure there is money to survive the winter manages to entwine Moira in the intrigues of the Ducal court, the Bishop of the United Church, rich merchants and the shadowy Family. Wanting nothing more than to be left alone, she discovers many of the figures behind the Duchies [Duchy's?] current problems are people who harmed her before and her best hope for survival lies in seeking revenge by foiling their current plots.

Strands of Silver is a stand alone novel even though I have plotted out two potential sequels. I am also currently half way through writing an urban fantasy set in my native San Diego, where I currently practice law.

I'd be glad to send you my complete manuscript for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely


Notes

I'm guessing Moira's seven years on the streets came after she was twelve and she's now nineteen? Is this YA? If she's nineteen, we don't need much information about her childhood in the query.

After listing some of Moira's bad luck in paragraph 1, you go on to list more of her bad luck in paragraph 2. I'd rather you dumped the second paragraph and got to the plot. Tell us something about the duchy's current problems, the court intrigues, her enemies' current plots, etc., so we know what's at stake. What's the connection between her heist and the church/court/Family?

Is Berrin a character in the book? If not, we don't need her in the query. (I say "her" rather than "him" because Googling "Berrin" and clicking on "images" brings up lots of photos of women, indicating it's a woman's name. On the other hand you might have said "goddess" if it's a woman. Not that it matters.)

13 comments:

Simplist said...

I actually gathered that 5 year old kid dumped on the streets + 7 years of hard living = 12 year old would-be master thief a la Jimmy The Hand (Feist's creation).

This is definitely too vague on the plot aspects with too much set up. As a voracious reader of epic fantasy for many years there is nothing in this query that makes me think I haven't read this book before. You've got all the hooks of other books I've liked, intrigue, dukes and duchesses, interference from the gods, you name it. But that's exactly why it made me want to reread the Taltos series instead of trying out something new.

I imagine from the mention of an urban fantasy novel and your current law practice that you actually can and probably do bring something fresh to the table in this genre. Lord knows it needs the help. I'd personally be compelled by a query that acknowledged all the trappings of the genre briefly before diving into the substantive differences between your story and the rest...assuming, of course, that there are such differences to highlight.

I should say that I have no experience in this industry at all. I do have years of experience as a reader, however, and readers buy books. Editors want readers to buy their books so you're really getting it straight from the horse's mouth. =) If the essential plot details from this query showed up on the back of a paperback, I wouldn't look at it twice. Bring out the differences and your story won't blend in the herd.

-Geoff

Phoenix said...

Hi Author: It's not clear to me from the query why a 19/13-year-old has "old enemies" bent on complicating her life. Is she like Job and Berrin is just inexplicably messing with her? Do the friends and teachers that betray her do so because they figured out SHE betrayed them first, given she's a larcenist and con-artist? Or does she turn to the trade because her friends all betrayed her in her pre-teen years? And are we talking Fegin-type teachers?

If the link between Moira's old enemies and her current dilemma is important, then maybe a little more clarity about the cause and effect is needed. If it isn't really that important, then maybe you can just leave out the confusing bits, which will give you more room to expand on why we should care about Moira -- what's special about her and what the stakes really are here.

A couple of other small points:

Agents "consider" work rather than "review" it.

You mention twice you have a complete ms available for review. Once is enough.

No need to mention a novel you're halfway through writing.

"...even though I have plotted out..." isn't quite conveying the idea you're going for (sounds like you're saying despite the fact you've done all this other work, the current offering is standalone). Strands of Silver is a standalone novel with series potential or A standalone novel complete at 95K words, Strands of Silver is the first book in a planned trilogy/4-book series/whatever.

All that said, your voice is coming through nicely, and just HAVING a voice in a query puts it head and shoulders among most of the slush. So yay for that!

writtenwyrdd said...

I think there is way too much irrelevant (for a query) detail here. Just trimming stuff, here's what I came up with, and I think it this sums up the gist pretty well, although it still needs work:

"Berrin, god of luck, must have rolled ones when Moira was born. Seven years on the streets teach Moira survival skills and interesting ways to earn some silver, [then] One final heist to insure there is money to survive the winter manages to entwine Moira in the intrigues of [the powerful, including (and here you tell us the most dangerous/important one...the Family?)] Wanting nothing more than to be left alone, she discovers many of the figures behind the Duchies current problems are people who harmed her before and her best hope for survival lies in seeking revenge."

Additionally, I'd delete what preceded and omit discussion works you have not finished. Just say it's a stand-alone novel.

This sounds like it could be a good read, but if yoru protagonist reads like a jaded 30-something instead of a streetwise 12-year-old it would not sell to me.

And you might like the mention of the god of luck, but unless he's a character in the book (sounds like he's not) then he doesn't belong in the query.

Anonymous said...

"Trirenia" sounds like a kidney disease.

150 said...

I don't have a good sense of whether the book starts with her "one final heist" or ends with it. I'd start with it, to be honest; those first two paragraphs just come across as backstory.

I'd just say "thirteenth birthday," since the query doesn't otherwise indicate that the celebration is important--although I assume its timing is fairly significant to the plot.

This is the kind of thing I'd like to read, but I want to see the query more crisp and plot-oriented.

_*Rachel*_ said...

I'm a little weeeeeh in the head right now, so I'll help on the only thing I'm sure of. I think:

Strands of Silver is a stand alone novel even though I have plotted out two potential sequels. I am also currently half way through writing an urban fantasy set in my native San Diego, where I currently practice law.

should approximately go to:

Strands of Silver is a stand alone novel with the potential to be a series.

Oh, and be careful how you summarize it. EE's in the GTPs sounded suspiciously like Artemis Fowl.

Adam Heine said...

EE, given the reaming you gave D&D in-jokes last time, I'm surprised you let "must have rolled ones" slide by so easily. Does that phrase actually mean something outside D&D?

Evil Editor said...

I had no idea it came from DnD, and assumed it was from a dice game similar to craps, where snake eyes is bad to roll. While it means what we today call snake eyes in craps, doubles in Monopoly, etc, but Monopoly, DnD and the term "snake eyes" are recent phenomena when compared with the time I assume this story takes place. It's possible rolling ones is what they called it in dice games in the time and place of this story (which may not even be on Earth).

The trouble with in jokes about DnD is that the number of people who will get them is dwarfed by the number that won't. I'd estimate it as a ratio of no better than 1 to 100.

Adam Heine said...

EE: Fair enough. That answers my question.

In D&D, rolling a one is a "critical miss" or "critical failure". Saying someone "rolls ones" implies very poor luck or even poor skill. (By extension, someone who rolls twenties is awesome).

So now you've all learned something about D&D and, more importantly, you've learned how to spot the clue that this story is probably someone's D&D-game-turned-novel.

Margaret Taylor said...

I like Trirenia. It's kind of like a quinceaƱera for thirteen-year-olds, and could be an oblique way of telling us about this world's culture. (And in a query, every word counts.)

I've got nothing new to add about getting straight to the plot; the others covered it pretty well. Is this steampunk? I'm judging by the mention of black lung and grungy sort of setting.

Anonymous said...

You used insure instead of ensure.

BuffySquirrel said...

Well, that's certainly true, anon, but I'm not sure what your point is.

A P Mullaly said...

THank you for the comments.

Some of them made me really think about what is actually is being said in the query and how people take certain comments.

just a couple of notes. The trirenia is kind of like a quincinera or a debutante presentation in the city of T'Fordten where most of the novel is set.

Moira is nineteen, but thanks for showing how that is not clear.

The old enemies are family enemies and I guess I need to parse the words a tad more carefully to make sure that comes across.

The ones are a dice game in the world of Aerillia and appropriate to the the God of luck. While I have been know to play a game of DnD in my day. At 39 I hope I've gotten past the point of RPG in jokes. Now Monty Python in jokes are a much harder thing to ignore.

All in all thanks for the comments, they can only help me in tightening up my query.