Monday, May 04, 2009

Face-Lift 628


Guess the Plot

Holy, Texas

1. When the great town of Holly, Texas is renamed Holy, Texas after a sign painting accident Bow Bradshaw returns to set things right for her great-grandmother Holly for whom the town was named after she single-handedly choked three attacking Apaches to death with one strand of Christmas ribbon and a baby on her hip in the 1880s.

2. Some said it was time to go when the waters ran dry in Holy, Texas, but ten year old Tim Dawson knows his friend the old medicine man on the reservation down the road has all the answers they need. But can Tim help the holy man remember the old ways in time to save the town?

3. Callie Palmer experiences first love while standing in the intersection between murder and revelation. Welcome to Holy, Texas; where the dead whisper secrets through hymns and Beatles’ songs.

4. Holy, Texas: home to 228 different cults. Great for tourism, but each cult has its own dubious agenda. The only thing they all agree on is that Holy isn't the right name for the town.

5. Janette didn't want to be one of those girls who drops out of school because she's pregnant, but prom happens. Things get difficult when it turns out her boyfriend is an angel, and he might not be the kind who can still fly...

6. Evelyn, the world's biggest Dante fangirl, decides to go on a trip similar to her hero. She's already visited Hell, Michigan, and Purgatory, Rhode Island, so now it's off to Holy, Texas! Add in a bizarre preacher, a chili cookoff, a ten gallon hat, and what is either a divine vision or a peyote-induced haze, and Evelyn is assured of an eventful time.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Seventeen year old Callie Palmer has a lot on her mind. Her dad is dead. Her mother is moving her across the country to Frye, a tiny East Texas town. While Callie and her mother pick through the wreckage of loss, their extended family grapple with issues of their own. Uncle Duke and Aunt Mary are raising their grandchildren, nine year old Cody and sixteen year old Chrissy. Duke and Mary’s efforts to shield them from a drug abusing mother push Cody into a permanent state of make-believe and drive Chrissy down the road of the prodigal.

In the meantime, Callie finds herself caught between a hot mess and hard place. Tuck Easton, her cousin’s vainglorious boyfriend, can’t keep his paws off her. Cole Pritchard, the Sheriff’s inscrutable son, won’t spare two words on her. [I got the impression from sentence 3 that Callie and Mom were on the road; apparently they've been in Frye quite a while.] [The sheriff's son should be "enigmatic"; "inscrutable" is reserved for Fu Manchu and Keanu Reeves.]

The town down the road has been controlled since the 1850s by fundamentalist extremists. Folks in Holy, Texas are hell-bent on keeping the faithful. [What does that mean?] Reverend Adler not only shepherds the Church of the Atoned; he makes sure its [it's] always washed in the blood. Innocent blood. [You're being too inscrutable.]

Rock Point, Holy's local hangout, is breathtaking. It’s drop dead gorgeous. Just ask Judith and Dane, the star-crossed lovers who died there thirty years ago. [You're having trouble deciding where your focus should be. Each paragraph is about something different; they need to connect logically to each other.]

Each move Callie makes pulls her closer to an acceptance of her father’s death, but also closer to the terrible truth about Judith and Dane. [What are these moves she's making? We haven't seen her do anything since she got to Frye.] Sometimes love turns into obsession, exacting a deadly price. In Holy, Texas, Callie experiences the blinding tunnel vision of first love while standing in the intersection between murder and revelation. One hundred fifty years of mayhem and mystery threaten to collide with the present, altering Callie’s life forever. [This is all vague. We want clear specific information.]

Welcome to Holy, Texas; where the dead whisper secrets through both hymns and Beatles’ songs. [Pssst! I was the walrus.]

Holy, Texas is a Young Adult novel of approximately 83,000 words which combines elements of mystery, romance, and suspense with a coming of age story.

I am a school librarian (version 2.0; no shushing!). Always a perpetual reader, [Don't you just hate those occasional perpetual readers?] I’ve bathed in the written word for so long that my toes are wrinkled with story. [Then I'll assume your library has all of Evil Editor's books.] As a result, my novel tumbled out after my last semester of graduate work in library science.

Evil Editor, thank you for your time. If you are interested in Holy, Texas, I would be delighted to send all or a portion of it. [I hope you'll be sending it on paper, as I don't particularly care to read it off your wrinkled toes.]

Best Regards,


Notes

What are Uncle Duke and Aunt Mary doing here? Besides taking up most of your crucial first paragraph? Possibly they have a role in the book, but they don't do anything in the query. Focus on Callie.

By telling us a little of everything, you tell us too little of what's really important. Your story.

Either of your very short plot paragraphs would make a good first paragraph. Either can lead you into Callie stumbling onto the Judith/Dane mystery, which I'm guessing is the main plot. Duke, Mary, Cody, Chrissy and Tuck aren't needed. Callie, Callie, Callie.

Wouldn't it be easier if they moved to Holy instead of Frye? I know almost nothing about the next town over, and I didn't just move here.

19 comments:

Sarah Laurenson said...

You've got an interesting voice, but confusion abounds. Lose most of the people in the query and put in more of what happens. As it stands, I'm just sitting here saying 'what, who' with every sentence. You might have a book chock full of off-the-wall characters, but I hope you have a lot more than that. What's the hook? What's the main theme?

nn Angel said...

If religion is a big issue in your plot, I feel like you should mention how Callie feels about that. What are her beliefs? Is she agnostic? Atheist? Not as religion obsessed? Because I feel most of the plot wouldn't really happen if she viewed religion the same as the people in the town.

Anonymous said...

wow, the fun GTP turned out to be the actual book. for once. congratulations. just by having a kinetic protagonist not saddled with a lot of fraught angsty melodrama about nothing you're way ahead of the pack.

Dave F. said...

Callie has to cope with the death of her Dad and cope with moving to (or near) a strange town filled with a cult possibly into blood sacrifice and all the while trying to date a "vainglorious" stud-muffin or a semi-mute nerd...

I get the impression that my summary isn't what you wrote. It's not who Callie struggles with, it's why and what does she learn from that struggle.

Also, if there is a mystery she solves, why or how does that mystery help her "come of age" or "cope with death."

And one last thing. Of all the words that I've ever seen describe "teen angst," vainglorious hasn't been one of those words.

Anonymous said...

After the death of her father, Callie Palmer and her mother moved to Frye Texas to be closer to family. Still grieving over her father’s death, Callie finds her self thrust into a very complicated life. Her extended family might just be nuts (I know that’s not exactly right, but we can read the book to find out how) and Tuck Easton, her cousin’s boyfriend can’t keep his paws to himself. Cole Pritchard, the boy she has a crush on (see, it’s so much better just to say it), won’t spare two words for her, and then there’s Judith and Dane- two lovers, now ghosts, who died one town over and communicate with Callie through hymns and Beatles’ songs. (The Beatle’s songs might be a problem because you’ll need to get permission to use the lyrics.) Callie Palmer must balance, falling in love, family, and her two ghosts who won’t leave her alone until she solves their murders. In the end Callie will unravel one hundred and fifty years of tradition for the small town of Holly Texas, and set two spirits to rest. In the process she’ll learn about right and wrong, and discover herself.

writtenwyrdd said...

The list of possibly wacky characters is interesting and I did like them; but it isn't selling Callie's story as well as you could. Basically, what everyone else said about the confusion--but this story does seem to have some really interesting elements. I'd like to see your revision for this.

_*Rachel*_ said...

Why do writers (not just you, wrinkle-toed librarian) seem to think a plot isn't a plot without some good ol' coming of age? Must we torture our characters psychologically and literarily, not just physically? I mean, you've got dead people singing the Beatles and crazy people murdering innocents, and dealing with a dead dad is equally important?

It probably is. And before you start chastizing me for being so insensitive, I'm entirely guilty, too. It's just that I am much more likely to read something about murder&mayhem than personal growth.

So... maybe mention the dead people earlier. And, in paragraph 1, family is a singular noun. It should read, "their extended family grapple*s* with issues...."

That's all.

Anonymous said...

"I’ve bathed in the written word for so long that my toes are wrinkled with story. As a result, my novel tumbled out..."

Is this in there to impress the agent with cleverness? More likely that it will annoy the hell of him or her. They don't even care if you like books anyway. They just want to know if you wrote something good.

I'd leave it out.

Anonymous said...

Why so many character names beginning with C?

Callie, Chrissy, Cody, Cole.

It's Con-fusing.

BuffySquirrel said...

I stopped reading at the intersection. Just tell us what happens to Callie.

Joanna said...

I thought Uncle Duke and Aunt Mary were the most interesting part of the query, though I wasn't sure how they fit into the main storyline (or what the main storyline is). I'd definitely be interested in reading about them and their grandkids.

And the coming-of-age part appeals to me too. I think there must be a fundamental divide between people who re basically interested in dramatic events and people who are basically interested in characters--I do enjoy drama, but it's hard for me to care about it much unless the people involved are interesting, complex and growing. I guess the trick is to find an agent/publisher who shares your preference...

wendy said...

I spaced out somewhere in the first paragraph. Granted I sometimes have the attention span of a gnat, but that may not be the reason why. Truth is; I couldn't wade through the query letter, sorry.

Evil Editor said...

Books don't get rejected because they have interesting, complex and growing characters. Your agent or editor hopes you have them. But to sell the book you need to show you have a story young adults will want to read.

talpianna said...

Given this sentence: "While Callie and her mother pick through the wreckage of loss"; and given the Texas setting, I kept expecting a tornado to have caused the devastation and perhaps killed Callie's father.

Rachel, "family" is one of those words that can be either singular or plural; we fight about it all the time over on dictionary.com.forum. I think you pays your money and you takes your choice here; I'm certain that my British friends would definitely treat it as plural.

jmartinlibrarian said...

Evil Editor and Evil Minions:

Goo Goo G'Joob! You really are the Walrus. Thank you so much for your comments and helpful critique. All the heckling is worth getting the constructive feedback. It never ceases to amaze me how much brutal honesty you can get from "anonymous."

I've incorporated some of the feedback into a second attempt. I hope(!) it's better.

Here goes:

Dear Evil Editor,

Seventeen year old Callie Palmer has a lot on her mind. Her dad is dead. Her mother is moving her across the country to Frye, a tiny East Texas town. In Frye, Callie picks through the wreckage of loss and finds herself caught between a hot mess and hard place. Tuck Easton, her cousin’s arrogant boyfriend, can’t keep his paws off her. Cole Pritchard, the Sheriff’s enigmatic son, won’t spare two words on her.

Tuck and Cole aren’t Callie’s only problems. Her new friends take her to Rock Point, the local teen hangout. Rock Point is breathtaking. It’s drop dead gorgeous. Just ask Judith and Dane, the star-crossed lovers who died there thirty years ago. Callie is living in Judith’s old house. When both Judith and Callie’s father begin speaking to her in dreams, Callie starts searching for answers.

As Callie tries to unravel the mystery of Judith’s murder, she learns that the town down the road has been controlled since the 1850s by religious extremists. Some folks in Holy, Texas are hell-bent on keeping the faithful in line. Reverend Adler not only shepherds the Church of the Atoned; he’s made sure it’s washed in the blood. Innocent blood. When Callie unearths the truth about Holy, she discovers first hand how far the Reverend will go to cover up his sins.

In Holy, Texas, Callie moves closer to an acceptance of her father’s death, but also closer to the terrible truth about Judith and Dane; sometimes adoration turns into obsession, exacting a deadly price. Like Judith, Callie experiences first love while standing in the intersection between murder and revelation. Callie faces down Judith’s murderer and brings the sins of the fathers to light. One hundred fifty years of mayhem and mystery collide with the present, altering her life forever.

Welcome to Holy, Texas, where the dead whisper secrets through both hymns and Beatles’ songs.

Holy, Texas is a Young Adult novel of approximately 83,000 words which combines elements of romance, mystery, and suspense.

Evil Editor, thank you for your time. If you are interested in Holy, Texas, I would be delighted to send all or a portion of it.

Best Regards,

Evil Editor said...

It's not perfect, but it's 100 percent better. There's a logical progression.

If the first sentence were

Seventeen year old Callie Palmer has a lot on her mind: her dad is dead and her mother just moved her across the country to Frye, a tiny East Texas town.

then the following sentence would feel smoother. Right now it feels like the start of a new paragraph.

The fourth paragraph is still vague, and I'd delete it. The query's a bit long, and it reads fine (better) without that paragraph.

nn Angel said...

Everything between "...to cover up his sins...." and "...Holy, Texas is a Young Adult novel..." I would cut because it just sounds cleaner that way. It feels like you end you synopsis there anyway and the extra paragraph is rather cumbersome in my opinion. But ultimately, it is up to you.

Also, when you first bring in the ghosts in the synopsis, you say speaking, but further down you mention hymns and Beatles's songs. Maybe work that in up there so it's clear they speak through song and not like regular people would.

Another thing. This is being a little nitpick-y on my part, but I found it slightly annoying when you kept saying Callie's name over and over again at the end of the second paragraph. I understand some of that is for clarity, but some crafty reworking wouldn't hurt in my opinion. (again, this point is strictly personal preference)

I do agree, though, that this is much better.

a jetlagged 150 said...

There are a lot of names dropped at one time. I'm not sure Tuck, Cole, Rock Point, and Frye need actual proper names in the query; their descriptors (her cousin’s arrogant boyfriend, the Sheriff’s enigmatic son, the local teen hangout, a tiny East Texas town) are pretty clear. It seems to me that giving them all names just muddies the water in this case.

Pretty sure by "religious" you mean "Christian" but it might be best to spell it out. Also, isn't "firsthand" just one word?

Agree that the rewrite is way better. Good luck!

Mother (Re)produces. said...

shucks. I had my money on #6. Is someone going to write this?