Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Guess the Plot
Death in Living Color
1. When a murder investigation leads to the Navajo Reservation, U.S. Marshall Graham Gray runs afoul of the tribal medicine man who predicted the murder with a sand painting. Things go from suspicious to spine-tingling when the medicine man uses the same technique to craft a painting of Gray's . . . death in living color.
2. When the body of beloved 50's sitcom star Lucy McGillicuddy is found in the charred husk of her Hollywood home, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, she was dead from a gunshot wound before the fire started, and two, redheads are really hot.
3. Tor Vlandingham loves “Death in Living Color!”— the newest reality TV show. But, when Tor finds himself trapped in a taxi with the next contestant, the idea of gladiators battling surprised civilians no longer seems so funny.
4. Thelma Foad, J.C. Dix's first client at his new law practice, hires him to recover a pornography film. Sounds intriguing, especially if he gets to see the film. But the next thing he knows, he's a murder suspect and gangsters are after him. Maybe he shoulda gone into corporate law.
5. Brenda thought she had a mouse problem so Dave set up a trap and his video camera, intending to film the carnage. In the morning the cheese is gone but where's the mouse? Dave checks the video and OMG, he killed an elf! Two other elves dragged the dead guy and the cheese away.
6. Justine wants to be a makeup artist for the movies. Thanks to the recession the only job she can find is preparing the dead for open casket events at the funeral parlor. Dullsville. Until she learns she must also subdue zombies and make them presentable. And who knew vampires could be so seductive!!??
Dear Mr. Rubie:
I notice that you represent both military fiction and crime fiction. [Thus I thought you might be interested in my novel Saving Private Poirot.] Janet Hutchings, editor of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, called my short story Dancing in Mozambique (EQMM July, 2010) “… a harrowing portrait of war waged by mercenaries and the greed and pitilessness it breeds. I think it’s one of the best mysteries of the year…”
I am an ex-Special Forces Engineer Sergeant (Green Beret Explosives Expert), hold a BA in Journalism/Mass Communications from the Walter Cronkite School, and have sold fiction to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine ["...Mozambique"] and Boy’s Life, ["Bobby Disarms an IED with Just a Scout Knife and a Merit Badge"] as well as other magazines and anthologies.
Following a suggestion, in a very kind letter from Dean Koontz, I have shifted my writing focus from short stories to novels. [If Koontz spent half as much time revising his crap as he spends writing letters to random authors, he'd be Stephen King.] I now seek representation for my completed novel-length manuscript “Death in Living Color,” an 80,000-word mystery that mixes a veteran’s experiences into the mystery. [Change the second "mystery" to "plot" or "story."]
As America sends troops to the Korean Conflict, badly scarred WWII veteran Captain J.C. Dix moves to Scottsdale, Arizona to practice a nobler form of justice [Nobler than what?] —only to discover the dusty desert town needs another lawyer like it needs central heating. When Thelma Foad, wife of a powerful community leader, walks into Dix’s adobe law office, things seem to be looking up. But, Foad (who knows Dix won the Medal of Honor) doesn’t seek legal help. Instead, she hires him to recover an illicit pornographic film of her younger sister. [If I'm looking for someone to recover a porn film, I definitely want someone who's won the Medal of Honor.] Soon, Dix is threatened by gangsters, and implicated in theft and murder. With the County Sheriff threatening arrest, Dix struggles to keep from being disbarred, only to have a librarian-looking woman show up—begging him to investigate her over-sexed sister. [Is he a lawyer or a private eye? Not that either one would turn down a job investigating an over-sexed sister.] Learning that an anonymous benefactor sent the two clients to him, Dix worries he’s being used as a pawn. As the gangsters close in, he races to solve the case, [What is the case?] and unmask the mystery man. [The mystery man? You mean the anonymous benefactor? That's the case he's racing to solve, to find out who sent him his other two cases? Has he made any headway on the cases he's actually been hired to solve, the ones he'll get paid for? Or is he just trying to solve his own little mystery?] Before it’s over, he’ll need all the skills he learned in combat—as well as the Tommy Gun locked in his office—to fight for his life, and save the woman he’s come to love. [Which woman has he come to love? My guess is the librarian-looking woman. But usually when you love someone you call her by her name or sweetheart, rather than librarian-looking woman.] [Although, librarian-looking woman is starting to grow on me. In fact, I think you should call Thelma Foad "powerful community leader's wife-looking woman." It's a bit wordy, but trust me, if your name is Thelma Foad, you'd rather be called powerful community leader's wife-looking woman.]
I am a student of World War II, a Scottsdale native with connections to the historical society (though I don’t let historical minutia [minutiae] clog up the storyline), and I blog with several other successful authors at: http://www.sleuthsayers.org
Following your website instructions, I pasted the first five pages of my manuscript below. I look forward to your reply.
This needs to be shortened. The Koontz sentence can go. You might open with: I am seeking representation for "Death in Living Color,” an 80,000-word mystery in which a WWII veteran sets up a law practice in Scottsdale, AZ, and soon finds himself entangled with gangsters and implicated in murder.
You don't need a bio at the beginning and the end. I'd combine the bio/credits into one paragraph at the end, something like:
I am an ex-Special Forces Engineer Sergeant (Green Beret Explosives Expert), hold a BA in Journalism/Mass Communications from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, and have sold fiction to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (Janet Hutchings, editor of EQMM, called my short story "Dancing in Mozambique" (July, 2010) “one of the best mysteries of the year…”).
That leaves us with the plot. I can do without Korean Conflict, nobler form of justice, adobe, Medal of Honor. Focus on Dix from beginning to end. And use paragraphs.
In 1950, badly scarred WWII veteran J.C. Dix moves to Scottsdale, Arizona to practice law—only to discover the dusty desert town needs another lawyer like it needs central heating. When Thelma Foad walks into Dix’s law office, things seem to be looking up. But Foad doesn’t seek legal help. She hires him to recover a pornographic film of her younger sister.
Now we need two short paragraphs that explain how recovering the film involves Dix in murder. (If the two are unrelated, drop Foad and the porn from the query. Murder is the focus of a mystery novel.) Who was murdered, and why is Dix a suspect? Frame job? Wrong place at the right time? What happened?
As it's not a romance, we may not need librarian-looking woman in the query. Basically, Dix sets up shop and suddenly his life goes kablooey and he has to solve a mystery or else . . . he'll land on death row? Gangsters will kill him? What's at stake? Do include that he'll need his combat skills to get through this.