Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Guess the Plot
Beneath the Ashes
1. They all laughed at Professor Whittaker's insane theory explaining the global uptick in volcanic eruptions . . . until the dragons began emerging from the lava.
2. In the days of old, burning at the stake could kill a witch. But paranormal investigator Kate Hanson is learning the hard way that in modern times fire is not enough, and evil lurks . . . beneath the ashes.
3. Unemployed banker Francois Goibert spends a lot of time gazing out his attic window, so when Mrs. Nash dies in a mysterious explosion, he knows exactly who her sinister visitors were -- but only by sight. Now he must help Detective Cher Wooster identify the killers before these firebugs toast him!
4. Hans-Ruedi Senn's family has lived on the same alp for six generations. He's tolerated the tourists and accepted change, but when city slicker Sylvia Burkhalter launches her new crematory remains scattering service uphill and upwind of his house, he draws the line.
5. Mick Shedly thought he was brilliant to burn the factory, collect the insurance and save his fiscal ass. But he didn't know the scene would be scrutinized by ultra-thorough Fire Inspector Mary Quan, his ex-girlfriend from college --who knows he's a lazy lying cad.
6. Twelve years after committing a double murder by burning down an occupied house, Dondra is released from prison. She sues the state for wrongful imprisonment, then realizes it was probably a mistake to confess to the murders before filing her lawsuit.
Dear Evil Editor:
RE: Beneath the Ashes
In a small neighborhood in the town of Briarcliff Manor, New York, a fire breaks out. The bodies of a very affluent couple, the Markos, are found. Their foster daughter, Dondra Williams, a young girl of seventeen is charged and later sentenced for their murder.
Twelve years later she is released from prison. [How many people do you have to murder before they give you, oh, say twenty years? I mean, if seventeen is old enough to be thrown in prison for twelve years, it oughta be old enough to be thrown in for any length of time.] Dondra wants revenge [She's out in twelve years after committing a double murder and she's complaining?] and plans to sue the State of New York and the Department of Social Services for wrongful imprisonment. Her allegation: she was physically abused by the Markos. She hires the law firm of Brown, Fisher, and Smalls and is represented by Sydney Taylor, one of the firm’s top lawyers. [I take it Brown, Fisher and Smalls were unavailable?]
Dondra admits to killing the Markos, but refuses to talk about the day of the fire. [When you went into prison at the age of seventeen, how do you have the funds to hire a law firm when you get out? I don't see them taking a wrongful imprisonment case on spec from a client who won't even talk about the day of the alleged murders.] Can Sydney find evidence of any physical abuse or was the motive something more sinister? [If there wasn't any evidence of physical abuse before she spent twelve years in prison, there is now. Do you have any idea how long the waiting list is for jobs as a guard in a women's prison?]
Beneath the Ashes, my 66,000-word novel, is a murder mystery in the same style as Mary Higgins Clark, but infused with social commentary in regards to today’s foster care system.
[Sydney: I've called you together to reveal the truth about the murder. But before I do, social worker Janet Garozzo, who hasn't been a character in the book up till now, would like to provide a brief info dump about the foster care system in the United States. Janet?]
My biological mother had me when she was thirteen. [I was gonna make a sarcastic crack like, Whose brilliant idea was that? Then I realized you might have a different take on it.] I became a ward of the court and was raised in the foster care system for seventeen years. While Beneath the Ashes is fiction, I was able to draw on my experiences living in [and burning down] several foster homes.
With a passion for storytelling, I am currently pursuing my BA in screenwriting at the School of Film and Television at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. My writing credits include: Rapport magazine; freelance writer for LA Focus and Turning Point magazine; ___________ weblog (relationship and dating advice website); copyeditor and writer for Dysonna, the Fashion magazine and co-writer for the fiction film-short Spin, which won the Global Art Film Festival award for outstanding screenplay 2007. [Remove the least impressive of these credits, starting with the dating advice weblog.]
I look forward to sending you sample chapters and discussing the project with you at your earliest convenience.
Usually in a murder mystery the mystery is who committed the murder. If Dondra did it, and the book is about why, maybe it's literary fiction. If Dondra didn't do it, but is keeping a dark secret that might help reveal what really happened, why would she hire a lawyer to sue the state? Surely this has the potential to bring out the truth she wants to keep hidden.
If you sue someone, don't you have to talk about anything the judge who's deciding the case wants you to talk about?
If you hire a lawyer, he won't want you as a client if you refuse to give him all the relevant facts. And you won't want him as a lawyer if he goes behind your back and digs up facts you don't want him to have from other sources. She's not saying, I don't mind you knowing what happened the day of the fire, as long as you don't get it from me, is she?
Did Dondra claim at her trial that the Markos had abused her? If not, then even if abuse is an acceptable excuse for murder, how can she sue if she didn't tell anyone about the abuse? If she did claim she was abused, maybe that's why her sentence was light. Some people get life (or death) for double murder. Hey, who among us doesn't know two people they'd kill if they knew they'd get only twelve years?
I think we need a bigger hook than "Was the motive something more sinister?" to interest us in this as a mystery.