Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Face-Lift 1256

Guess the Plot

These Wicked Waters

1. When Annie takes a summer job scrubbing toilets, she never dreams she'll soon be fighting for her life against cannibalistic sea-women. Also, a lifeguard with no fashion sense.

2. Ralph owns an independent toilet store that's losing business to the new Sears across the street.Thursday night, as he's shining his showroom, a genie pops out of a toilet. Will Ralph say the right thing to save his store, or will the clever genie just confuse him?

3. When toilets all over Los Angeles start backing up, ace detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, yet another murderer has tried to get rid of a dead body by flushing it; and two, he'd better get around to installing that bidet he bought his wife for their anniversary.

4. Hired to prove or debunk the legends of the Loch Ness monster, Jake Matthews puts together a team of scientists and heads for Scotland. He's expecting the "mission" to become a relaxing vacation . . . until three members of his team vanish.

5. The pellet with the poison is in the vessel with the pestle, the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true…or is it the flagon with the dragon? But which witch ordered which? Bartending for the Association of Wicked Witches can be a curse. 

6. Six people have drowned in Rainbow River this year. Some say it's the unpredictable current, but detective Carrie Barnes thinks it's the work of a serial killer, a serial killer she has dubbed . . . the Plunger.

Original Version

Dear EE:

A summer scrubbing toilets at an island resort wasn’t part of seventeen-year-old Annie Mayfield’s plan. [But it had to be better than her other option, counselor at a middle-grade girls' camp.] [I'm pretty sure a summer scrubbing toilets isn't part of anyone's plan. Maybe you should mention why she ends up doing it. Is it a punishment? Did she lose all her money? Is she performing a modern-day reenactment of the 12 labors of Hercules?] Then again, neither was sneaking out for a rock climb and tripping over the weathered remains of a human skeleton. Only, tagging the bones “human” is a whale-sized fib.

Humans don’t have tails. [Could it be the skeleton of a small giant sloth? Does anyone suggest it's a small giant sloth? Not sure why the authorities would claim that a small giant sloth skeleton was human, unless they're afraid that revealing it's a small giant sloth skeleton will kill the tourism industry. Or start a panic among the locals.] [Also, you don't gain anything by making this sentence a separate paragraph.]

Days after Annie’s discovery, a guest’s bloated body washes up on shore. Evidence points to an accidental drowning—except for a too-wide grin splitting the man’s face. Death by suffocation isn’t exactly “say cheese!” territory. [You're saying that it's murder because it's unlikely the dead man was having his photograph taken when he drowned? Or are you saying that he was having his photograph taken, and that this somehow proves the drowning wasn't accidental?]

The Greek Intelligence Service invades. [Is "invades" the right word? I'd go with "steps in."] [Also, isn't "Greek Intelligence Service" an oxymoron? Ba Dum Ching!] Annie knows the agency’s suspect pool is only ankle deep—make-believe sea-women left uninvestigated [I can't tell if you're saying that their suspect pool consists entirely of uninvestigated make-believe sea-women, or that they foolishly aren't investigating make-believe sea-women.] [Neither interpretation makes a lot of sense.] [We could save a lot of space by calling them mermaids instead of make-believe sea-women.]—but she keeps her lips zipped and pursues leads of her own. [Is she trying to solve the murder or identify the skeletal remains? Is there a connection between the two? Why is she pursuing leads?] 

While scavenging the island for mythological clues,

[Examples of mythological clues:

1. Minotaur hoofprints.

2. Poseidon's trident.
3. Blood containing the DNA of a goat boy.
4. Centaur hairs.
5. Ichor spatter.
6. Aphrodite's Magic Girdle.]

Annie rescues a siren tangled in construction netting. The sea-woman’s “thank you” translates as a warning: the others are coming. And they’re hungry. [The other make-believe sea-women? Are they make-believe cannibal sea-women?] [This sounds more like a job for Aquaman.]

No way will Annie surrender as a siren’s appetizer. [When you're on something's menu, it doesn't care whether you surrender.] With the help of her veteran amputee sister, a fashion-backward lifeguard, [Is this a comedy?] and lots of gun-slinging luck, [Not clear why the adjective "gun-slinging" has been inserted.] Annie might survive the summer—with one heck of a back-to-school story. 

[Outline of Annie's essay "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" 

I. Scrubbed about 10,000 toilets.
    A. Ouzo kills germs better than Lysol & tastes better.
    B. Greek men are soooo disgusting.
II. Pushed my sister's friggin wheelchair all over creation.
    A. Carrying all her crap.
    B. How about getting some Oscar Pistorius blades, Erica.
III. Fabulously wicked affair with Eros makes up for 
       otherwise miserable summer.]

Complete at 63,000 words, THESE WICKED WATERS is a young adult novel with a sprinkling of light thriller thrown in. [When you find a mutated human's remains, investigate a murder, and escape being eaten by cannibalistic mermaids, I wouldn't call it a sprinkling of light thriller. Either call it a YA thriller, or cut back on the thrills and build up the romance with the lifeguard.] Fans of STARCROSSED by Josephine Angelini and DEADLY COOL by Gemma Halliday will enjoy the Grecian [Greek] myths entwined with sassy sleuthing. Thank you for your time.


Possibly dining on a human being doesn't make you a cannibal if you aren't technically a human being yourself. Although a mermaid dining on Aquaman probably is cannibalism.

The voice is good for a YA novel, especially if it's similar to the voice in the book. However, you can't afford to sacrifice clarity. There are two or three places where it's not clear what you mean.

Also, try to limit yourself to three sentences of setup. The plot starts when Annie decides to investigate. More about what happens after that. Is the siren the only mythological creature in the book? If there are lots of others, that's worth mentioning in the query.


InkAndPixelClub said...

If you can't get the siren skeleton into the first sentence it should at least be in the second one fully identified as a half human/half fish skeleton. Scrubbing toilets is not the hook of your story, nor does it seem to come up again in the query.

"Only, tagging the bones “human” is a whale-sized fib." "Tagging" doesn't feel like the right word here and calling it a "fib" leaves me confused. Is someone trying to claim the bones are human? Who? Why? Changing it to"...would be a whale-sized fib" would make it clear that the lie is a hypothetical one rather than something that somebody actually said. And I don't think you need the comma.

Someone more knowledgeable about the appearance of a drowned body than I will have to weigh in on whether you can accurately judge the final expression on the deceased on a bloated corpse. Regardless, it took me a second read through to realize that the point is that the man looked happy when he died. You're trying to be too clever with the wording. Just say what you mean: the dead man has a blissful expression on his face that doesn't fit with the drowning theory.

It'd be nice know that we're in Greece a little earlier if you can fit it in. This paragraph can probably be combined with the previous one.

Why doesn't Annie show anyone else the siren skeleton? If she just had a theory that a mythological creature drowned the man and no evidence to back it up, I could see why she'd need to keep it to herself and her team of misfit mythological crimestoppers. But she has a skeleton to show. That should at least give her some credibility.

You've got a good reason for starting out calling the creatures "sea-women," but until we get to the reveal, it feels confusing. Maybe say that Annie finds what she thinks is a mermaid skeleton, then finds out that the creatures are actually sirens when the one she rescues tells her or she checks her encyclopedia of mythological creature or what have you. Then perhaps a brief description of what a siren is. (I know, but you don't want to assume the query reader does.)

"..."translates as a warning..." Again, confusing word choice. Does Annie have to translate what the siren tells her, or are you just saying that she thanks Annie by warning her?

"No way will Annie surrender as a siren’s appetizer." Change "surrender as" to "be" and this is okay.

The sister and the lifeguard are getting dangerously close to character soup. They appear so briefly and so late in the query that I have no clue what they're doing in the story. Either bring them in earlier or dump them.

EE, trying to figure out whether Atlanteans and mermaids are the same species in the DC universe is giving me a headache, so I'm gonna let that joke slide. Though Aquaman is at least half human....

Evil Editor said...

Yes, half human and half Chilean sea bass as I recall.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

His father was the keeper of the Eddystone Light.

Anonymous said...

My experience with video game (Baldur's gate)Siren's atleast give me the impression that there skeletons should be quite human. A quick look at wikipedia has left me even more confused on what they should look like. Definitely define them.

Are you using Siren's so they can tempt people into the water with their song? Does their song also work on woman?

khazarkhum said...

That cover would make me buy Aquaman. That issue, anyway.

Greece needs to come up early. As in "Annie thought staying with her disabled sister on the Greek island of Siren Beach would be a fun summer" kind of introduction.

Query Writer said...

Thanks for your tips, guys. The query is SO MUCH BETTER!

AA said...

I'm still stuck on the fashion-backward lifeguard. What do they have to wear? Swim trunks, right? Waterproof sunscreen?

T. K. Marnell said...

When I read the line about the "too-wide smile splitting the man's face," I imagined a Glasgow smile. There are also many other reasons a corpse would appear to smile: seizure, rigor mortis, or the euphoria and hallucinations caused by the brain shutting down right before death.

Could Annie use another clue that the death wasn't an accidental drowning, like suspicious teeth marks that couldn't have come from any shark? Come to think of it, why wasn't the first victim eaten? Does Annie start investigating based on nothing more than a weird-looking skeleton?

Speaking of the skeleton, if I were to stumble upon a pile of bones that look like mermaid remains, I'd assume it was a hoax or a sick joke. I'd imagine someone thought it would be hilarious to dig up an old grave and replace the legs with a dolphin tail. Why is Annie so sure it's a siren instead? Has she encountered mythical creatures before, but nobody believed her?

SB said...

The description of the body's expression made me think he was killed by the Joker. Does he just look like was happy or does he have an unnatural rictus grin? Right now, I get the impression of the latter.

I find some of the language in this to be corny, cutesy, and off-putting, such as the "say cheese" and "fib" parts. I think this would be cleared up if you just said more clearly what you mean. I know you want to inject voice, but personally (and I do read YA), I find this particular voice unappealing.