Thursday, July 25, 2013

Face-Lift 1142


Guess the Plot

Maroon's Diamonds

1. Adam's band is broke. No one listens to their music anymore. They visit their safe deposit boxes in one last effort to find some cash. Adam's box contains a crystal skull resting on a treasure map. They're off to Antarctica.

2. Typhoon Dave sweeps over the marijuana fields of Thailand, causing THC-laced rain in Bangkok -- just as the worldwide gemologist convention is opening! Hilarity ensues.

3. Captured by slavers in Africa, Mbungu is shipped across the Atlantic. He escapes to a community of Maroons whose leader, Zumba, gives him diamonds in return for which he agrees to return to Africa and end the slave trade.

4. Shayla needs one more big score to buy her father's freedom from the Mafia. And, today she found her mark. Baba Maroon won't know what hit him.

5. Mt. Etna, August, 1943. Searching the body of a panzer commander, John 'Ultra' Maroon finds several pieces of diamond jewelry. Keeping a ring for his wife, he buries the rest, putting a map to their location in his shirt pocket. 50 years later his granddaughter finds the map. But will the diamonds still be there?

6. Elven wizard Salanar il Maroon carves five diamonds, each of which controls one of the elements. Four thousand years later, demon lord Quaaliktuk threatens the world, so Queen Berun sends her 6 best-- 2 warriors, a wizard, two elves and a dwarf--on a quest to find Maroon's diamonds--before it's too late.

7. Alphonse Maroon, Montreal landscape designer, receives a vision from catcher Gene Vadeboncouer. Now he's on a quest to rebuild every 19th century baseball stadium in Canada, even if he has to do it with just a wheelbarrow and axe.



Original Version

Mbungu is a prince, the first in the line of succession to the kingdom of Kongo, the most powerful in Africa. He’s arrogant and loves to lead his armies in war to show how powerful he is. Portuguese advisors in his father’s court entice the kingdom to go to war again and again, so that the conquered people can be sold as slaves to them. The slaves are sent into ships to a voyage no African has ever returned. [That sentence will kill your chances. Fix it or delete it.]

When Mbungu refuses the advices [advice] of the Portuguese  to change the laws of the kingdom so most crimes become punishable by slavery, [If you want the laws of a kingdom changed, seems like you'd go directly to the king.] the Portuguese start to plot with his envious half-brother, Ngonde, to overthrow him and his father. While in a military expedition to pacify southern provinces, the royal entourage is ambushed by troops led by his half-brother [Ngonde] and armed with foreign muskets. [This sounds more like an attempt to kill them than to overthrow them.] Mbungu’s forces are easily defeated, his father is killed, but he avoids death. He hides his identity, trying to pass as a common soldier, fearing that his half-brother is still looking for him. That doesn’t stop him from being captured as one of the defeated men. He then is sold as a slave to a Portuguese ship, and makes a long and terrible journey to Brazil.

In Brazil Mbungu learns what horrible fate awaits those who’re enslaved by the Europeans. After much suffering, he escapes successfully and reaches a safe haven he heard the other slaves talking about, the quilombo of the moon, a maroon community in the middle of the jungle. There he meets former enemies, men from conquered countries that at first want to kill him for what happened to them, but the ruler of the quilombo, Zumba, sees that Mbungu has changed and pardons his past sins, as long as he helps him stop the slave trade. Mbungu is given several diamonds from the quilombo’s mine, the first diamond mine to be found in the world outside India. Using this wealth, Mbungu starts into action a plan to return to Kongo, end Portuguese influence in the kingdom and get revenge on his half-brother Ngonde. [It doesn't seem it would be that easy for an African to find passage to Kongo. 

Mbungu: I need a ride to Kongo.

Captain: Do I look like I'm running a charity ship?

Mbungu: You can have these diamonds.

Captain: Ah. Thanks. Boys, we have a return passenger. Chain him in the hold below, he'll fetch a pretty price when we reach Kongo.]

Maroon’s diamonds is a historical fiction novel set in the age of sail, dealing with themes such as how African civilizations dealt with the arrival of Europeans, the horrors of slavery and the middle passage and revenge.


Notes

Either you're not a native English speaker, or you carelessly threw this together and didn't proofread it. I'm guessing it's the former, in which case your options are to get it published in your native language, hoping it's successful enough that the English language rights sell, or to have it edited before sending it off or to get more proficient at English.

Ignoring the language and wordiness, this is one of the better book descriptions we've had lately. Not too much setup, good summary of the main plot, we know the stakes, the obstacles, and the plan. It's also a story that hasn't been told a million times. Not everyone knows the Portuguese were the main players in the early African slave trade, thanks to some pope granting them exclusive rights to pillage everything south of the Canary Islands (or something like that--my limited knowledge comes from researching my book The History of the World in Tweets).

Not everyone will know what you mean by a maroon community; capitalizing it, though not necessary, would keep readers from thinking you mean "marooned" or that you mean the color maroon or that you mean a community of morons.

Here's a less-wordy version of what you've written, a better length for a query:

Mbungu is a prince, first in the line of succession of Kongo, the most powerful kingdom in Africa. He’s arrogant and loves to lead his armies in war. Portuguese advisers in his father’s court entice the kingdom to go to war again and again, so that the conquered people can be sold to them as slaves. The slaves are sent on voyages from which no African has ever returned.

When Mbungu refuses the advice of the Portuguese to change the laws of the kingdom so most crimes become punishable by slavery, the Portuguese plot with his envious half-brother, Ngonde, to assassinate him and his father. On a military expedition to pacify southern provinces, the royal entourage is ambushed by Ngonde's troops, armed with foreign muskets. Mbungu’s forces are easily defeated; he avoids death, but his father is killed. Trying to pass as a common soldier, Mbungu is captured, sold to the Portuguese, and makes a long and terrible journey to Brazil.

In Brazil Mbungu sees the horrible fate awaiting those enslaved by the Europeans. After much suffering, he escapes and reaches a safe haven, a Maroon community in the jungle. There he finds former enemies who want him dead, but their leader pardons his past sins on condition that he work to stop the slave trade. Mbungu is given several diamonds with which to finance a mission to Kongo to end Portuguese influence in the kingdom--and get revenge on Ngonde.

At 75,000? words, Maroon’s Diamonds is historical fiction set in the Age of Sail, dealing one man's quest for justice and revenge against the backdrop of the African slave trade.


A clean query might get some attention, but that won't matter if the book also needs extensive cleaning up.

The apostrophe is probably wrong in the title. And the diamonds aren't important enough to be in the title anyway.

7 comments:

Veronica Rundell said...

Wow. Well guess I better get back to work. Nothing to do here today.

Best of luck author!

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

"Advices" is a pretty clear indicator of a proficient but non-native speaker. Seen it a million times. I'm guessing this is another Brazilian writer?

Writer, you'll need to either collaborate with a native English speaker, or else stick to Portuguese. Yes, the US fiction market is much bigger than the Brazilian one, but it's also much too competitive to go into without native-like English proficiency.

khazar-khum said...

Hi author

Good one, I think. Can Will Smith star, or is he too old? Just keep his son out of it and we're good.

EE, at the time most ship crews were mixed. All anyone cared about was whether or not you'd do the work. Some pirate crews were almost completely made up of former slaves.

I think you need to find a writer from the US who is willing to help you. Heck, you might even ask some of the minions here. They'd be able to help you smooth out any rough spots.

CavalierdeNuit said...

Looks good and unique. I would make sure all your historical facts are accurate before querying. It's easy to get lost in the story and not triple check everything.

Best of luck!

BuffySquirrel said...

Well, the Portuguese involvement in the slave trade may be untrodden ground, but surely 'slave-owner learns better by being enslaved' is a pretty well-worn idea by now. They even inserted it into the plot of 'The Eagle', for reasons that will not become clear in this lifetime.

Also, I don't buy it. I can believe Mbungu thinks it a dreadful thing for him to be a slave, and for his own warriors, but for his defeated enemies? Nah. Cognitive dissonance isn't overcome that easily.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Well-worn does not matter. It's all in the execution.

BuffySquirrel said...

Presuming the reader gets to the execution.