Friday, August 19, 2011

Face-Lift 943

Guess the Plot


1. The latest fashion at Swan's school; shiny. One little capsule and you'll glow in the dark for 24 hours. Everyone's doing it. Is it Swan's imagination, or do they get more and more zombie-like with each dose?

2. Glimmer, the elf who delivers the world's sunshine and happiness every morning in bright pink baskets, is captured by a grumpy gnome who doesn't want anyone to be happy ever again. Can Betsy and Bobby save the day?

3. A glimmer of hope. That's all high school student Kalin wants as she sets out to rescue her mom from kidnappers. When she finds out her mother is actually the immortal Morgan le Fay, she can only say one thing. WTF?

4. Lost in the woods at night, Kirene sees a distant flash of light. Is it a cabin? And if so, is it the cabin of a witch or a kindhearted soul or a serial killer? To find out you'll have to read the book, because the query only takes you as far as the door.

5. An old jeweler hands Anika a sparkling gem, and tells her to place it under her pillow for good luck. What he doesn't tell her is that her dreams will now be controlled by the gem. And will all come true.

6. There's something shiny bobbing up and down in the ocean. And Nick has been practicing his swimming. It doesn't look that far. He thinks he can make it out there. But can he make it back? Probably not, but if it's a bottle with a genie inside, he won't have to.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Recently, NYT bestselling author, Cassandra Clare introduced me to Eric Paquette, Senior VP of Productions for Screen Gems. During one of our conversations, I told Eric [Even if you're now on a first-name basis with him, in the query I'd refer to him as Mr. Paquette.] about my book and he has requested to read it. His wife, screenwriter Jessica Postigo, has also requested to read my novel. [I haven't seen this much name dropping in the first paragraph of a query letter since the guy who opened by saying My style has been compared to Twain and Harte, Vonnegut and Hiaasen, and Marlowe and Spillane. I never did get around to asking if he meant fictional character Philip Marlowe or Elizabethan poet/playwright Christopher Marlowe.] [The bad news is that Eric and Jessica, being married, will buy (at most) one copy between them if the book is published.] [You've devoted an entire paragraph of your query to naming three people who haven't read your book. If you're gonna do that, why not name people the reader is sure to be familiar with: It has been suggested to me that Stephen King, Steven Spielberg and the late Humphrey Bogart would enjoy my book.] [According to Wikipedia, "first time writer" Jessica Postigo has been hired to write the screenplay of Cassandra Clare's latest novel, which is being produced by Screen Gems. Which invites the question: When you hire your inexperienced wife to write a screenplay for a movie you're producing, are you allowed to pay her twice the going rate?] [By now you've caught on that you must delete that entire paragraph, so let's move on.]

When seventeen-year-old Kalin woke up that morning, she thought the only disruption to her predictable day would be a scheduled visit from her mostly absent Mom. [There's no need to say "that morning," if you don't reveal what morning you're talking about. We can deduce that it's some morning from the context of the sentence.] But from the moment she left her house with her best friend Cori, things just escalated from strange to way past weird. First, during an impromptu visit to a psychic, [On her way to school?] she had a vision of a glass castle. Then, she finds a spellbook in her locker that she just can't get rid of. [I see we've switched from past tense to present.] But, none of those things compare to [Those weren't "things."] going to work and being attacked by some hot guy that turns out to be a black-blooded evil faery, then being rescued by none other than her guidance counselor who tells her that she must go to mystical Avalon to help find her missing mother. [That paragraph is way too wordy. I would trim it to something like:

Seventeen-year-old Kalin isn't expecting Friday to be much different from any other day, so when she's attacked by a black-blooded evil faery and rescued by none other than her guidance counselor, she wonders if she's dreaming. The "guidance" she gets from her counselor doesn't exactly clear things up; he tells her she must go to mystical Avalon to rescue her missing mother.]

Once in Avalon, Kalin learns that her mother is Morgan le Fay, the immortal high court faery queen. The lies continue to unravel as she discovers that her best friend Cori is a faery princess and her guidance counselor a faery knight. [How have all these people managed to hide their dual identities from Kalin for seventeen years? Her best friend is a faery princess in Avalon, and she has no idea? That friendship is over.] Kalin must push aside her own feelings so that she can rescue her Mom from a new faction of faeries bent on destroying Avalon. Unfortunately, faeries have their own set of rules and a system of courts that are too busy accusing each other of deceit to actually be able to help her. Throughout her adventure, Kalin does make some new friends including Rowan, a sexy and dangerous fae with his own secrets. [You're just listing random stuff. You should be telling the story.]

Glimmer, my 66,000-word young adult fantasy manuscript can be described as a Mists of Avalon (Marion Eleanor Zimmer ) [What the? The name on her book cover is Marion Zimmer Bradley.] meets Wicked Lovely (Melissa Marr). [Yes, Morgan le Fay is in Mists of Avalon, and there are faeries in Wicked Lovely, but . . . ] This modern day faery tale has elements of Arthurian and Scottish mythology including some twists on well-known characters from legend. The novel is set in Baltimore, but also visits Avalon, Las Vegas, and Brittany, France.

I am a freelance writer and co-owner of the YA Fantasy Guide that focuses on the young adult fantasy genre. [This leads me to assume you must be familiar with the YA novel Glimmerglass. (Which is confirmed by a visit to your site and a click on "Fairies," Glimmerglass being the top book listed.) Admittedly your book, Glimmer, is about a girl who goes from Baltimore to Avalon to find her mother, while Glimmerglass is about a girl who goes from Philadelphia to Avalon to get away from her mother, but I'm not sure calling your book Glimmer is the best idea. If you wrote a mystery set in Sweden, you wouldn't call your book The Girl with the Crocodile Tattoo, even if the main character was a girl with a crocodile tattoo.] The YAFG receives an average of 35,000 hits per month. I also have a twitter account with more than 10,000 followers.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.



Focus on what happens after Kalin goes to Avalon. What's her plan? A faery faction wants to bring down Avalon, but a seventeen-year-old girl is needed to stop them? What does she bring to the rescue team? What goes wrong? What happens if the faction succeeds? What's the story?


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

There are two things I'm so tired of objecting to that I'm almost on the point of giving up.

One is the use of "black" as a synonym for evil. D'you mind? My president is black.

The other is this:

Recently, NYT bestselling author, Cassandra Clare introduced me to Eric Paquette, Senior VP of Productions for Screen Gems.

Not the name dropping, but the comma. Your first and third comma are permissible but your second comma is a crime against the English language.

(I don't know about namedropping. Saying "Ms. Red Hot Editor has offered me $100k for this manuscript and I'm not sure if I should accept" will probably help you get an agent. Knowing Cassandra Clare may not get you anywhere: Everybody knows Cassandra Clare. And not knowing Marion Zimmer Bradley's name-- ouch. Ouch ouch ouch.)

150 said...

I just realized I cannot wait to send you my latest query, just to see how stupid you can make it sound in the GTP.

Anonymous said...

...but your second comma is a crime against the English language.

Unless, Evil Editor blog frequent commenter, the person being addressed is, in fact, a NYT best-selling author.

Anonymous said...

One is the use of "black" as a synonym for evil. D'you mind? My president is black.

But he's not, though, really, is he? Nobody is actually black, and certainly not the true, colour of the night, black that is associated with evil. And making a tenuous connection between the two, and then objecting to the connection you made, seems a little silly, really. IMHO. YMMV.

Dave said...

I don't know what to say about the first paragraph.

I would cut the second paragraph even more than EE did. The only part that is important is that one day she discovers that she isn't just an average HS girl, she's he daughter of Morgan Le Fay who was hidden in the "non-fairy" world of humans. Why was that?

I haven't read he Percy Jackson books but I did see the movie and the adventure, teen romance and action takes place after he finds out he's son of a Greek god and has to help his father out. I think that's what we need to know about your novel. What sort of adventure and coming of age does Kalin experience?

Also, there is a similarity to HOLES (read the book, saw the movie) and the entire story is Stanley's growth from put upon brat with the flaky father to someone who really cares about others. That is what endears us to the story. Again, Kalin's "journey" after she discovers her origin and how she handles that discovery is what your readers will love about the novel. The query short-changes that part of the story.

It's also good you have a platform to sell the book once it is published but let me remind you of the obvious that the query has to sell the book and not the marketing. I'm sorry to say something so obvious.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Ah, I see from wikipedia that "Marion Eleanor Zimmer" was MZB's maiden name.

Used like this, though, it merely causes an unwanted double-take.

vkw said...

Maybe I am just weird, I don't know for sure what the problem is but I read things like this:

"Kalin must push aside her own feelings so that she can rescue her Mom from a new faction of faeries bent on destroying Avalon."

and decide I don't want to read further because I don't like the MC.

To me a delimma about whether nursing my hurt feelings and saving another's life and the entire faery world is not much of a delimma.

Should be pretty obvious. Me-hurt them dead, me-hurt them dead. . .. .hmmm. . . . I think maybe I can help save my mother's life and then nurse my hurt feelings while reaping much teen guilt as possible on mommy for the rest of our lives.


My point is delimmas should be delimmas not petty teen-stuff.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

But he's not, though, really, is he? Nobody is actually black, and certainly not the true, colour of the night, black that is associated with evil. And making a tenuous connection between the two, and then objecting to the connection you made, seems a little silly, really. IMHO. YMMV.

It may seem silly to you, Anonymous. (You don't mind if I call you Anonymous, do you?)

But the fact that the people aren't really "black", but merely are called "black", and that evil isn't really any color (or, if you prefer, colour) but is called "black", is very much the point. Read Winthrop Jordan's White Over Black, and see how the two concepts are played with in Arthur Miller's The Crucible. The association is no accident.

I've no doubt that's why JK Rowling chose to make green the color of evil. She gets it.

Evil Editor said...

It ain't easy being green.

The only "black" in the query describes the faery's blood. Googling reveals that the Nuckelavee - a Scottish sea fairy, has black blood coursing through yellow veins. Other examples of faeries with black blood also were seen. Possibly the faery's blood was exposed in the skirmish with Kalin or with the guidance counselor. If aspects of a mythological creature's appearance have been passed down through the ages, there's no reason to change them.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

What, the actual blood is black?

And the veins are yellow?


Evil Editor said...

Well, I'm not the author, but to call it a black-blooded evil faery would be redundant if black-blooded means evil.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not the author, but to call it a black-blooded evil faery would be redundant if black-blooded means evil.

Well, I think "black-blooded" generally implies evil, black-hearted certainly does, so it may be redundant. I don't think anyone is suggesting the president has black blood (nor a black heart), yet, so that's probably OK.

Dracula would be so much more dashing in a green cape.

Matt said...

AlaskaRavenclaw, I strongly recommend you watch the August 17 edition of The Daily Show.

It'll be the second video in the player. The relevant part is right near the beginning.

Matt said...

...starting around the 2:30 mark.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Anonymous, you clearly haven't been listening to FoxNews.

Eric said...

As Neil Gaiman once told me, never drop names.

Tamara Marnell said...

My memories of being a seventeen-year-old girl are somewhat obscured by a haze of angst. But I'm pretty sure that despite my raging hormones, if I had been physically assaulted by someone at my school, the first description of my attacker to come to mind would not have been "some hot guy." Even if the man coming at me with an axe was Leonardo DiCaprio, the deadly weapon and murderous intent would probably take precedence over his sexual allure.

Anonymous said...

I totally took the black blooded to mean that he has black blood, and then I wondered how she knew that or why it even matters.

I don't know about this story. Maybe it was just the query, but I just didn't feel anything from it. I didn't care if she rescued her mom, and I didn't care that she had been lied to all this time.

Also, I agree about the Percy Jackson thing that Dave said. When I was reading it, I kept thinking of that movie (didn't read the book). When the query mentioned Las Vegas, I even thought, "do they run into the lotus eaters?"

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you clearly haven't been listening to FoxNews.

I tried an experiment once. Using the dual picture function of the swanky flat-screen TV in my hotel room, I set it to watch Fox News and MSNBC at the same time.

Matter and anti-matter combined and it created a black hole.

(Sorry. Can I say, "black hole"?)

Dave said...

The "Lotus Eaters in Las Vegas" fit into the "legend" being retold in Percy Jackson. All that sin and sloth and dissipation fits Las Vegas.

However, having read about the Nuckelavee and its black blood and why it has black blood. A truly horrific image. However, I don't see the connection to Las Vegas. There may be one in the novel. I don't know.

I would hope that there is a link. I can see a link to Britany France but not Las Vegas. This may not be fair to say about this novel but I would hope that when writing these stories that a certain amount of cohesiveness exists in the choice of location, ethnicity and legend.

BuffySquirrel said...

I'm thinking of writing a novel about Bigfoot and other American legends. It will be set in Fiji.

What does Kalin want? What's at stake? What are the obstacles? Etc ad nauseam.

Alaska is right that there's a comma problem. If you're going to set off NYT best-selling author with commas, it needs to be *a* best-selling author so the sentence still parses. Otherwise just delete the comma. Not that it matters much, as Eric and Cassie were only being polite, and anyone in the industry will know that.

Khazar-khum said...

AlaskaRavenclaw: Are you new to earth? Black has been linked with evil for a long time, and not just in Western culture.

To me, this is truly telling: We're discussing your overreaction to an innocent adjective rather than the highly generic and uninteresting book itself.

Anonymous said...

Then you must be a fan of 1989's TARZAN IN MANHATTAN and 1986's CROCODILE DUNDEE #2 also set in Manhattan.

Matthew MacNish said...

She has a guidance counselor at work? I want one.

Matthew MacNish said...

The link to Vegas is that it's cool. Every book should have a few Las Vegas scenes.

AA said...

"To me, this is truly telling: We're discussing your overreaction to an innocent adjective rather than the highly generic and uninteresting book itself."

THIS. All right, author, it's great you love your favorite books so much you wrote this "tribute" to them, using names, characters and places that are in those books. But everything about this query just screams "It's been done!"

At what point does a tribute become a rip-off? Well, if I were to write a book combining the protagonists from Jane Austen novels and have them meet and interact in the towns Austen invented, that's a tribute. Jane Austen is a classic writer but not a current hot seller. She's also deceased.

Now, if I were to lift characters, locations, ideas, and nearly identical plots and storylines from my favorite novels that are popular now in a single genre and write that book in order to (at least partly) cash in on the popularity of those books, that is a rip-off. I'm not saying that's what you did, but... that's what you did.

I wish authors would learn what we were taught in school as kids- "Do your own work. Don't look at Suzie's paper. If I want to know what Suzie is thinking, I'll ask Suzie." And if I want to know what Marion Zimmer Bradley is thinking, I'll read Marion Zimmer Bradley.

BuffySquirrel said...

That the use of black to mean evil is of long standing and cross-cultural is not much of a defence for its continued use. However, I'm not convinced that is how it is being used here.

If your mother's immortal, just how much defending does she need? I'd think she could just sit around and outlive her enemies.

Evil Editor said...

I'm not saying that's what you did, but... that's what you did.

Let's not go overboard. The Mists of Avalon is a retelling of the King Arthur legends, Morgan le Fay being a character from those stories. Wicked Lovely is set in a world where faeries coexist with us, but where we can't see them. I don't see any plot similarities,(which is why I questioned the author's comparing her book to them).

Faeries and Avalon are fair game for any author (including the late Marion Zimmer Bradley), just as Mount Olympus and Greek gods or Transylvania and vampires are.

I can see a story in which a high school student discovers her mother is the immortal Morgan le Fay as a new and original twist. Tell us Morgan le Fay and the magical world of Avalon exist in your contemporary world, not that your world is like the world in Bradley's The Mists of Avalon.

BuffySquirrel said...

Pride and Prejudice alone sold 110,000 copies in 2002, excluding academic sales. If that's not hot selling, what is?

Dave said...

Well the overheated rhetorical questions of derivatives and ripoffs beg the question:

Does "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" fit that criteria?

Is "West Side Story" a ripoff of Shakespeare?

Was "Forbidden Planet" a cheap and surrealistic ripoff of "The Tempest?"

Was "The Magnificent Seven" too derivative of "The Seven Samurai?" And are we happy about it?

How about all those ZOMBIES MOVIES that started out from the original zombie movie - NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. and if you don't believe me, go look at the trailer of NOLD on "Trailers From Hell"
Every zombie movie is derivative of NOLD.

And my all time favorite "KISS ME KATE" is such a musically fun "Taming of the Shrew."

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

K-K, if the fact that a piece of idiocy has been going on "for a long time" automatically means objecting to it is laughable, I'm not sure how we ever managed to waddle out of the primordial muck.

If only DWJ were still with us, she could write The Tough Guide to Faeryland. I think somebody should.

Anonymous said...

What's with "requested to read"
? Sorry, over the top. Did the NYBS author request to read? Didn't think so.

I think you should start over.

But I am green. I hear it's the new black.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

/besides, I didn't @#$#ing overreact, she muttered. I typed two. Brief. Lines.

The astonishment several people apparently felt at my stating a widely-held, hardly-novel belief, well I wouldn't like to call that overreacting but.

Dave, the thing about being derivative is asking yourself whether you have something new to say. P&Pw/Z clearly did. But that's one of those once-it's-funny, twice-it's-the-discount-bin things.

If a writer doesn't have something new to say, well, it might sell, but why bother?

(Am not saying the querier doesn't have anything new to say. Can't tell from the query.)

AA said...

The "teen finds out her mom is actually a queen in faeryland" plot is starting to get old, to me. And the "teen must rescue missing parent who turns out to be a denizen of faeryland." I've seen that one, too. Or, "teen finds out he or she is actually half faery/witch/something magical and this info has been hidden from him/her, for some reason." I've seen that one even more.

The little that's been described is cliche' as well. As far as the plot is concerned, there are all the contingent, or I might even say requisite, logic problems. How can a teen from our world, dropped into a world where she doesn't even know how things work, be expected to rescue a queen? Or anyone else for that matter. If she's the queen's daughter, who would dare put her in that kind of danger? Wouldn't someone who was trained in, say, I don't know, rescuing people be better for this? Starting much closer to the point the MC is transported to Avalon and continuing from there might help get the focus off logic problems.

Regarding earlier comment: There's nothing wrong with derivative works. But here, the author compares the work to two different authors in the same genre. Then the author talks about Arthurian and Scottish mythology. There's also the title, which EE noticed is similar to a book in the same genre about a girl who goes to Avalon to find her mother. Then she mentions a website she runs which shows she's well-versed in YA fantasy by other authors. That's at least five good hints about where the material comes from, but reading the query didn't give me the idea that a sixth would be "the author's own brain." Nothing in it seemed original, except the kid going to a psychic on the way to school, but that's just confusing.

That's where I got the idea the book is a rip-off of others works and ideas without creative input from the author. Okay, that may really not be true, but the author should be able to see how I got that idea. It's not like that's never happened before. Maybe it didn't in this instance.

I'd like the author to show that this is truly his or her own work, especially in describing what happens. And leaving out comparisons to other authors, plus changing the name of the book, will remove some of the "clues" that gave me the suspicion that this book is just a patchwork of others' ideas, and insure this suspicion doesn't occur to anyone else.