Friday, May 25, 2012

Face-Lift 1031

Guess the Plot


All the Queen's Horses

1. In this latest Buckingham Palace tell-all, a former chief groom shovels the shit.

2. Canada's "Queen’s Plate" boasts a field of 17 hopeful three-year-olds and a purse of $1,000,000 –  enough for Josie Callighan to save the family farm--if she can find a horse. When she borrows one from the matronly lady in the big house next door, she learns just what a royal pain this business is.

3. Lars Sekkin, seneschal to the Queen, is given the task of finding out who pushed Humpty Dumpty off of the wall and why they would frame the Queen and her retinue.

4. Rodney is the riding master of the Queen’s Royal Stables and a closet gay involved with the Queen’s youngest son, Prince Stephen. Princess Gloria, unaware of Rodney’s proclivities, uses account irregularities to blackmail him into a liaison. Rodney sends his look-alike half-brother Frederick to her boudoir after dark. When Gloria is found murdered, can Rodney solve the case without implicating Frederick or revealing his and Stephen’s affair?

5. When Gerald's prize stallion wins a big cup race, Queen Elizabeth wants it. But Gerald already agreed to sell the horse to a rich American. Thus begins a battle of wills that threatens to escalate into the 2nd Revolutionary War.

6. Chess grand master Raul Sitzky manages to get all of his pawns to the eighth rank, and promotes each of them to a knight, giving him ten knights. While considering his next move, Sitzky's opponent's head explodes.



Original Version

Dear Agent:

When Gerald MacGrath wins the 1962 Enderton Cup, turning his horse into a national treasure, he has no idea he's stepping from the winner’s circle into a showdown between the horse’s new American owner and Queen Elizabeth II of England.

In dire need of money to clear debts he inherited along with the family farm, Gerald agrees right before the big win to sell his prize stallion to an American breeder. After the win, Elizabeth II, determined to keep the horse properly British, offers up a better deal. The honorable choice is for Gerald to close the sale with the American -- [Honor shmonor. If there's a signed contract, the horse goes to the American. If there isn't, it goes to whomever Gerald chooses.] but that means saying no to a very powerful and very stubborn queen. [Careful, Gerald, you know what happened to Lady Di when she said no to the queen. Wait, it's 1962, so Gerald doesn't know how ruthless the queen is. Poor Gerald.]

The American proves just as stubborn, [Just as stubborn as Queen Elizabeth II? It's now fifty years later and she's still living, just to keep Charles from becoming king. Now that's stubborn.] and as negotiations stall, Gerald's urgent need for cash escalates when his live in housekeeper reveals she's pregnant with his child. [That sounds more like a drop in the bucket than an escalation.] His life in crisis, Gerald’s hold on honor begins to crumble.

When intercession by the UK Prime Minister fails it looks like the fate of a dying breed hangs in the balance on a point of honor. Not only does Gerald's future hang on Gerald's next move, one of the last purebred Cleveland Bays in Britain is heading to America. [Tough. If the queen wanted all her precious Cleveland Bays in England she should have lobbied Parliament to pass a law making it illegal to sell them to foreigners. It's not like the queen has anything better to do.] [The first half of that sentence suggests that Gerald hasn't decided what his next move is; the last half suggests he's already made his move.]

All the Queen's Horses is historical fiction based on the actual events of 1962. I look forward to sending you the manuscript, complete at 80,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Notes

Brits are so . . . British. You don't see Russia putting up a stink when an American-owned Wolfhound wins a dog show.

If winning this race turns a horse into a national treasure, Gerald should have had some idea what he was in for. You could change the first paragraph to: When Gerald MacGrath wins the 1962 Enderton Cup, he has no idea he's stepping from the winner’s circle into a showdown between the horse’s new American owner and Queen Elizabeth II, who declares the horse a national treasure that should belong to the British people, specifically herself.

Maybe leaving off the last nine words.

It's not like getting this horse guarantees the American riches and glory. The queen can afford to offer the American a huge profit to sell the horse to her. Hell, the queen can afford to buy Kentucky and every horse in it.

The query's not bad. But you'll have to find a publisher who doesn't believe that those in the horse world would prefer a nonfiction account of this historic event, while those outside the horse world would rather read about more significant historic events.

19 comments:

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

My first reaction to this query was that I liked it because it didn't appear to contain a single faeriiee, fallen angel, or teenager with unexpected powers.

My second reaction was, waitaminute, Queen Elizabeth II is (quickly checks nytimes.com) still alive.

Writer, your scope for portraying real, living people negatively in fiction is traditionally very limited. Sure, it's been done. But it doesn't end well.

Hell, I recently canceled plans for a particular historical novel because the villain had too many descendants.

(Oh, and EE, I didn't say "shit". You have edited me.)

BuffySquirrel said...

Merf?

Alaska, the Queen's position in our legal system is such that I don't think she could sue anyone for defamation. (Sorry I missed our Thursday appt, but better late than never, right?) Yes, it does give you headaches, our constitution. Mostly we put it down and tiptoe quietly away.

This historical incident being entirely unknown to me, I tried to google it, but only found this query being workshopped across the internet. I am not strong with google-fu, evidently. I am puzzled however as to what more the Queen could do than say, 'We are not pleased'. It's not like she could stop the horse going abroad. And why should Gerald care whether she's pleased with him or not if he has his farm to save?

Also, EE, the royal personage accused of arranging that Diana woman's demise was Prince Philip, not the Queen. Although why the heck I even bother with 'getting right' such nonsense.... *mutters*

BuffySquirrel said...

Okay, your google-fu improves when you establish the horse's name was Mulgrave Supreme. Did the author change the owner's name for the novel? Seems a bit pointless, given a) that won't offer any protection in itself from a suit for defamation, as the events identify him anyway and b) it's meant to be historical fiction.

So what is Mulgrave's central dilemma? Is the American going to take him to court for breach of contract? Is Queenie threatening him with the Tower of London? What's stopping him just selling the damn horse? I think what I'm missing here is a feel for what exactly is giving Mulgrave the big headache.

arhooley said...

I think I like the story, but I could use some help from the query.

Is this a charming creampuff about a period when "honor" was high stakes and one could talk about the British royal family with little to no irony? Or maybe something more absurd, or something less? I'm somewhere between King Ralph, The Queen, Seabiscuit, and Carry on, Gerald.

Gerald can salvage at least part of his honor by marrying his pregnant girlfriend. Then, no matter which bid he accepts, the family farm is saved. Do I care that the Queen will be miffed and England will be a little closer to losing studs for a particular breed of horse? I guess Gerald does, because his life is "in crisis." Trouble is, I just don't see it. Can you make it clearer for me?

I think you've got one too many metaphors in "the fate of a dying breed hangs in the balance on a point of honor." Something hangs in a balance, or balances on a point of whatever.

A. M. Perkins said...

I must admit, the pregnant girlfriend made me do a double-take. "The Queen of England really, really wants my horse, so I must abide by my deeply-ingrained code of honor and give it to her even though it will ruin my life. As for the girl I knocked up out of wedlock, she can wait her darn turn!"

I think the issue I had was the same one others mentioned - I don't completely understand how Gerald's honor is being questioned.

Is it simply that it's always honorable to do what the Queen wants? Was it some sort of tradition that the Queen automatically has dibs on any cool horses? I'm sure this is a case of "different eras = different ideals," but it left me confuzzled.

khazar-khum said...

So this is where the Cleveland Bay story was going.

Since the contract is presumably drawn up in Britain, British law prevails. Either way, the Queen can & will afford to buy the horse. Heck, if all she wants is some royally-bred horses, I've got three I can sell her right now.

But that leaves a question. Since she's been informed of the rarity of the breed, why not collect them all & create a special Royal Stud for them?

sarahhawthorne said...

It's an interesting set-up, and seems like it could be a good story.

But you've really only give us the set-up: two powerful people want Gerald's horse. We need to know what exactly are the Queen and the rich American going to do to poor Gerald - lawsuits? Publicity campaigns? And what recourse does Gerald have?

BuffySquirrel said...

To settle the question of whether there was a valid contract with the American buyer would require much more information. Even to settle whether English or US law applied would require us to know whether there was a choice of law clause in the contract. Maybe it was only a handshake?

And setting up a stud to save the breed is more or less what the Queen did when she bought the horse.

I would've thought Gerald's best course would be to sell the horse to the American buyer as agreed and let him fight it out with ER.

Mister Furkles said...

Well, I think the focus should be on Mulgrave not Gerald. People love animal stories. Give Gerald a teen daughter who loves Mulgrave. Have her appeal to the Queen. Then the Queen saves the horse and daughter & Mulgrave live happily ever after.

Yes, it's sentimental. It's soupy.

James Herriot, aka Alf Wight, wrote books that sold millions of copies. Here is a hint: Readers didn't buy them because they love veterinarians all that much.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Thank you Evil and critters for the comments/suggestions. Very much appreciate the fresh eyes/ perspectives.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

I've let this sit, reread the comments (thanks all) and here's my run.


Gerald believed the sale of his stallion would solve the crushing debt he inherited with the family farm. Way wrong belief system Gerald.

The stride from the Enderton winner’s circle is a giant step Gerald wishes he never took. It leads him straight into a Mexican standoff involving Gerald, the horse’s US buyer and Queen Elizabeth II who declares the horse a national treasure after the upset win.

The sale to the Yank can’t close until the horse passes the Royal Horse Society stallion inspection so the old boys at the RHS delay the inspection until Gerald comes to his senses and lets Elizabeth II have the horse. The stud is the best of the four Cleveland Bay stallions still breathing in the registry. The breed is on its last legs and only HM has the influence to rejuvenate this proper British breed. She intends to do just that.

Gerald would enjoy the prestige of selling the horse to the most powerful and determined woman in the UK but he’ll find his British buttocks being sued off in court if he collapses the US sale. The buyer planned his retirement around the purchase of Mulgrave Supreme who will stand at his new breeding station. A real estate developer has plans for the farm.

When Gerald finally works out a solution Mulgrave Supreme disappears. HM is not amused, the buyer is livid and the developer is rubbing his hands in anticipation. Gerald has a few days to recover the horse, alive and sound, to clear the wreck heading at him.

All the Queen’s Horses, complete at 80,000 words, details events I swirled around the Queen’s actual purchase of Mulgrave Supreme in the 1960’s. I have two other manuscripts in the works featuring horses that earned HM’s favor.

Thank you for your considering my query.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Wilkins, if I were an agent I wouldn't read past the second sentence of the first paragraph.

KC said...

Your second sentence doesn't amke sense to me. Maybe something more like "He was way off" or "Boy, was he wrong." Something with a verb, anyway.

Also, the abbreviation HM was confusing, since you never called her "Her Majesty" in the query. And I'm not sure if the more common abbreviation isn't HRH (Her Royal Highness.)

There seems to be some verb tense issues in Para #2 ("he never took/it leads")

Para #3 has a clunky phrase "still breathing in the registry"

I think you could leave out Para #4 all together.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

Tk said...

Hi Wilkins,

Sorry, I agree with Alaska - it's because that sentence requires too much work to parse. Same with the sentence at the end about details being swirled. It's an interesting way to use words, but the sentence structure makes it really hard to pick up.

It seems that you describe the set-up twice. Maybe consolidate those parts?

Sorry for rewriting - it was how I was trying to figure out the sequence. Hope it helps you see how I understood what you'd said.


Gerald believed the sale of his [Ascot-winning? (To id the value of the horse and the country we're in)] stallion would solve the crushing debt he inherited with the family farm. Way wrong belief system Gerald.

Before the race, Gerald had promised Mulgrave Supreme to a US buyer. After the upset win, Queen Elizabeth II declares the horse a national treasure. The stud is the best of the four Cleveland Bay stallions still breathing. The [British] breed is on its last legs and only HM has the influence to rejuvenate it.

Gerald would enjoy the prestige of selling the horse to the most powerful and determined woman in the UK but he’ll find his buttocks being sued off in court if he [reneges on the Yankee deal]. [And the Queen isn't playing fair -?] the sale can’t close until the horse passes the Royal Horse Society stallion inspection so the old boys at the RHS delay the inspection until Gerald comes to his senses and lets Elizabeth II have the horse. [is that RHS detail really needed?]

Then Mulgrave Supreme disappears. HM is not amused, the buyer is livid and a developer is [practically breaking ground on Gerald's farm]. Gerald must [turn sleuth to? i.e. not just report this to the police?] recover the horse, alive and sound and [whatever his solution to the sale is].

All the Queen’s Horses, complete at 80,000 words, [is a fictionalized account of?] the Queen’s actual purchase of Mulgrave Supreme in the 1960’s. I have two other manuscripts in the works featuring horses that earned HM’s favor.

Thank you for your considering my query.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

I'd very much appreciate knowing why.
Thank you if you will elaborate. I'm trying to get it right.

150 said...

I had the same reaction as AK, Wilkins. If I thought the manuscript contained anything like "Way wrong belief system Gerald" I'd never bother with it. Since you asked, here's why.

First: it's punctuated incorrectly. Gerald should be set apart with a comma.

Second: it's colloquial in a way that's inappropriate to the setting. That might sound right coming out of a modern teenager, not a 60's horse trader.

Third: the query letter is implicitly being narrated from the author to the agent. Addressing the main character breaks the format. And it's an unattractive, entry-level form of sarcasm at that.

If all of that was wrong in the first paragraph of your query, I assume it all happens repeatedly in your manuscript.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Because it doesn't sound like something anyone would actually say. It sounds awkward. That sentence makes it sound like you're reaching for voice, but missing.

PLaF said...

“Way wrong belief system” is a fail.
There are past/present tense issues between the first and second paragraphs.
How can you have a Mexican stand-off between a Brit and an American? Talk about your mixed metaphors.
I like the original better. I felt like I had to plod through this one to get an idea of what’s going on, and then I didn’t really care.
I think the issue is you have not given us enough reason to be interested in Gerald. It’s the horse and the queen that are interesting. You need to tell us why Gerald is the most interesting character in the story.
Two stories come to mind: Dreamer and The Godfather
Dreamer is inspired by a true story. It’s not the horse or the trainer that is the central character, it’s the girl. It’s her hopes and dreams that get wrapped up in the relationship she builds with her father and her horse.
The Godfather is the tale of a man caught between a crooked rock and a deadly hard place. His struggle is difficult because he loves his father and his family yet wants to avoid the family business. He’s doing alright and then things go horribly awry.
So, what’s Gerald’s dream, and who makes him an offer he can’t refuse?

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Thank you! I had a lot of help with the first query. From the comments it seemed to have too much stuff in it and the logic didn't follow although it got a nice word from u-know-who.

This one, well, 'nough said. I was trying for a simplified more logical version. I so appreciate the time you guys took to give me your comments. Tk, thanks for your rewrite.

Big help.