Friday, February 05, 2016

Face-Lift 1303

Guess the Plot

The Iron Legacy

1. Why aren't robots allowed to submit crazy plots?What would Issac Asimov say?

2. Beautiful, fiery Lily St John is the only child of railroad tycoon David St John. Scheming, cunning, and an insatiable desire allow her to build the most powerful railroad network in the South. Then she meets Conner Reed, scion of a coal mining cartel. Will her heart allow for a union of interests, or must the mighty iron horse prevail?

3. Wolf is the son of legendary WWI ace Manfred von Pferdenthal. With WWII about to break, can he follow his father's lead in the air--or will his fear of failure doom him to the typing pool?

4. Sharlene likes keeping clothes neat and well-pressed. So she's got her trusty Rowlenta packed, her luggage full of clothes, and she's on her way to Kuala Lumpur for the International Extreme Ironing championship.

5. Gintal learns that great-grandfather Henry invented the electric iron. But Gintal's family received no royalties. He decides General Electric owes him. Gintal proceeds to murder the top executives of the company. Hot detective Marcy Clarke, winner of the women's Ironman competition, heads the homicide investigation. By coincidence the two meet and fall in love. What could ever go wrong with this romance?

6. Planet Earth has been overrun by alien beasts, all except the city of Alexandria, thanks to its iron gates. Now the city's chancellor has decided to open those gates, and it's up to teenaged Bailey to stop him from letting the nightmares in and ending the last bastion of humanity.

7. Mining was Jadder's family's livelihood until the empire burned their village, killed everyone, and sealed the mines claiming plague, black magic, and treason. Now an undead warlock spreading pestilence throughout the empire, Jadder figures he'll finish making the empire's lies real by killing the emperor. 

8. Despite their kindness to Aunt Loo Loo, the iron legacy was enacted in her will, leaving her three doting nieces, Poppa, Pippa, and Penelope with just ten thousand dollars and Aunt Loo Loo's "friend", handsome Joe Smiles with the rest, a cool 50 million. The three distraught nieces go on a retreat in California to recover and discover that they can communicate with dolphins, who want to build a fusion reactor.

Original Version

Dear Agent X,

Bailey MacKinnon’s city, Alexandria, is bursting at the seams with slum kids and drunks, so honest folks like herself are rare. [I don't think you need "so honest folks like herself are rare." It suggests that the presence of slum kids and drunks is responsible for the scarcity of honest people.] After the beasts known as the Tuatha De Danann overran Earth, they also sent her mom to an early grave, so she’s spent years training to become a soldier. Once she travels beyond the city gates with the military, she’ll give the Tuads hell. However, the day she joins the ranks, she overhears a conversation that would sentence [destroy] her city—their Chancellor’s plan to open the gates and let the nightmares inside. [Hard to believe beasts capable of overrunning the entire planet can't get into this one city because the gates are closed. Has every place that has a gate been spared? Are the gates opened to let delivery trucks bring in food for the slum kids and alcoholic beverages for the drunks? Probably not, as there probably aren't any farms or distilleries that haven't been overrun. Why haven't the military killed all the slum kids and drunks so there'd be more food for the military, as would happen in real life?] [What does the Chancellor think is the upside to opening the gates?]

No one buys the tale, not from a green recruit like her, so she gets proof by breaking into the Chancellor’s office. [I'm pretty sure she couldn't possibly do that.] Or at least, she tries.

The military catches her and kicks her out, [Out of the Chancellor's office or out of the military?] and once that roundhouse kick is delivered, her friends ditch her too. [Her friends probably tried to talk her out of joining the military in the first place, but now they ditch her when she gets thrown out? Nice.] No one believes her, until she meets an underground band of street trash and carnies [With the Earth overrun by beasts and the city bursting at the seams, are there actually carnivals in operation? Or are these carnies actually ex-carnies who prefer the moniker "carnie" to "street trash"?] who trump themselves up as druids. ["Trump up" is accurate only if they aren't really druids. "Claim to be" is better if it's not clear whether  they are or not.] She might be honest, but she’s no idiot. Bailey doesn’t believe their claims of magic [Despite how terrible it felt when no one would believe her story, now, when she finally finds someone who does believe her, she doesn't believe their story? Nice.] until they reveal the fate of Alexandria they divined—the same plot she overheard. With only a couple of carnies, flaky magic, and a shoestring plan in their [her] corner, [I love (out of context, anyway) the descriptions we get on this blog of those who help the main characters in their quests, like "With only a couple of carnies, flaky magic, and a shoestring plan in their corner." Here are a few more, which took me very little time to find:

Aided by a cranky witch with authority issues and a mysterious priest who is too comfortable in combat situations, 

aided and impeded alike by many bizarre individuals, including a constantly babbling imp, a werewolf whose handsome looks hide inner turmoil, a talking stallion who prefers a good debate to a good fight, and a dwarf who would rather invent magical potions than mine gold,

Aided by her newfound friends, the advice of a monk, and only a moderate dose of sarcasm, 

helped and hindered by three men – a Thai policeman trying to balance loyalty to the force with his desire to find the truth, a charming but roguish British journalist addicted to life in the fast lane, and Sugar, her driver, who, like most Thais, sees a supernatural explanation behind everything.

with the help of a pet-shop owner who seems to know too much and is close to the leader and a doctor on a quest for a mythical recipe for Twinkies.

...will be helped by others in her quest: Saska, who also wishes to be trained as a summoner; the priest Denson, who knows much about Nerea's past; the angel Seth, and his summoner companion Arentil; Melody, Arentil's book-wise granddaughter, and even the goddess Yethde, who directly opposes Onago's plans for Nerea.

With the help of an ancient Oak, 

Accompanied by his annoying little brother, Caden; his skull-collecting neighbor, Alex; and Idona, a teenaged girl with purple hair and a temper, 

With the help of a bawdy, female dwarf, a delusional peasant who believes herself the banished heiress of a long-decrepit estate, a small potatoes thief, and a mediocre wizard who has a serious shapeshifting problem,

Aided by Gordie, an obsessive bagpiper with a penchant for Shakespeare and mischief,

...he somehow winds up with a ragtag group of companions: The stubborn mule of a centaur constantly complaining about his age and grumbling about how magic is always the first to go; the timid princess with unrequited feelings for Lim who runs away from home to escape an abusive father; the young rebel maid, rescued from a dungeon, whose general brashness and idealism disarm the boy's good sense faster than he can say "infatuation"; and the young dragonling who, after a near-fatal misunderstanding in the forest between his mother and Limorek, joins the quest as a sort of "studies abroad" outing.] Bailey’s ill-equipped to expose the Chancellor. [That depends on which carnies she has with her. For instance, the carnies who run the tilt-a-whirl and man the ring-toss game would be useless on this mission, but the ones who are good at guessing people's weight or hammering in tent stakes might come in handy.] However, if she can’t get her broken city to listen to the truth in time, the gates will open, and like the other husks razed by the Tuads, Alexandria will fall. [A "husk" is the outer covering of something. I'm guessing it was the cities that were razed and their husks are what was left when the razing was all over.]

"The Iron Legacy" is an 87,000 word YA fantasy.



The word "iron" is common in steampunk titles. Not that you shouldn't use it in your title if it conveys something about the plot. Where did the title come from?

I would condense the first paragraph to something like:

After the beasts known as the Tuatha De Danann overran Earth and sent Bailey MacKinnon’s mom to an early grave, Bailey vowed revenge. Now that she's old enough, she's joined the military. But her first day in the ranks, she overhears talk of their Chancellor’s plan to open Alexandria's gates and let the nightmares inside.

Or, as the main plot seems to be stopping the chancellor, maybe we don't need Bailey's motivation for joining the military. We could open: Military recruit Bailey MacKinnon overhears a plot to open the gates of Alexandria, letting the beasts known as the Tuatha De Danann overrun the city. She tries to warn the populace, but no one will listen--until she meets an underground band of street trash and carnies.  That leaves a lot of room to talk about their plan and what goes wrong and what will happen if they can't come up with something better. Devote less space to the situation and more to how Bailey and company handle it.

Years ago we had a query for a book titled The Theft of the Daidanna Dankenka Maru. If you could combine this book with that one, the query could begin: "When the Daidanna Dankenka Maru is stolen by the Tuatha De Danann," thus getting rejected before the end of the first sentence.

When she's eavesdropping on the conversation about letting the beasts into the city, does Bailey know it's not a couple soldiers joking around, or discussing a rumor? Is it the chancellor himself she overhears? If not, why haven't the people she overheard backed up her story? If so, does she hear him explaining that opening the gates will be a good thing because it's preferable to everyone starving to death? Or because it will clear the streets of all these damn carnies? Is he just an insane megalomaniac, and no one else has realized this and tried to warn the people until Bailey came along?


Mister Furkles said...

I have a question: Is a 'small potatoes thief' a stature-challenged burglar who steals potatoes or is s/he an even more specialized one of normal height who only steals small potatoes?

These are the issues that haunt my dreams. Sure. Giant goats that devour entire teams of mountain climbers and Borgo the Disemboweler : no big deal. Even Earth destroying space aliens terrified of decorative iron fixtures are nothing compared to trying to determine whether an English word is an adjective modifying a noun or an adverb modifying an adjective.

Anonymous said...

Are the Tuatha de Dannan in your world aliens or creatures out of fairy land/the otherworld? I'd normally assume the second, but you talk about them like it's the first.

This reads like you were trying to write a cover blurb. The query letter needs more focused setup and more plot progress.

Bailey wants a lot of different things. It doesn't matter that they're related. Focus on what she wants most, which is hopefully what the book is about. Give us enough information to understand why she wants it and what she plans on doing about it. Tell us a few of the obstacles she's going to face and what she's got that'll get her past them.

Having allies is great, but how is she going to use them? Set up a circus and brainwash the populace into believing her? Raid the chancellor's office again, this time while he's watching entertainment provided to the military?

The agent needs enough information to see what the reader's going to be spending their time looking at.

Chicory said...

I'm having a hard time liking your main character. The line `honest folks like herself' makes her sound judgmental. It does not help that everyone else (at least those who aren't in the military) are described as drunks, slum kids, and street trash. There is nobody the narration considers worth saving. If there is anyone likable in the book, please try to indicate that. If the point of the story is that the world is filled with scummy people, well, I am probably not your target audience.

Chelsea P. said...

Here's what I'm inferring based on the query and things I happen to know:

1. Mythologically, the Tuatha are an ancient faerie race from Ireland.

2. Faeries, generally speaking, have a big issue with iron.

2. Therefore, the iron in the gate surrounding Alexandria is keeping them out. (Although I think it would have to go *all around* the city, like a cage, in order to really keep people out. Because even if they aren't winged, I'd think the Tuatha could find a way to crest a gate.)

Problem is, of course, we need that info in the query. Other things I want to know include:

What do the Tuatha want?

What does the Chandeller want? (Or, more specifically, what is he getting from the Tuatha in exchange for opening the gates? I'm guessing some kind of immunity or power, once the Earth is fully taken over, but we need hints of that here.)

Even if they succeed in exposing the Chancellor, who's left to care? Bailey seems very unimpressed with the general populace in her world, so I wonder if she really cares about saving them, or if this is more about saving herself and avenging her mother.

In fact, I have to agree with Chicory about Bailey coming off as kind of prejudiced. For one thing, if the world has fallen into ruin, can she really blame people for turning to booze for comfort? Secondly, "street trash" reaaaaally rubbed me the wrong way. It's fine to have her be snarky and sarcastic. But this level of judgement is making her hard to root for.

All that said, I think you've got the bones of a good query here. We have Bailey's motivation, a clear-cut problem to solve, and the (theoretical) means to do it. We just need a few more details (and maybe a little more compassion from B.) Looking forward to the rewrite! :)

Patricia Bennett Fine Art Painter said...

I think it sounds great! I like the main character, she's not a drunk and is motivated to help her people, and there's probably a lot of inspirational marshall arts training scenes in the book.

I'm a little confused about the time period and location (post-apocalyptic Earth or alternate Universe Earth or a different Earth altogether).

These fantasy, grunge-world books always have weird long names, so Tuatha de Danaan sounds fine to me. It implies that there's a city/town called Danaan somewhere, if "De" means "from".

EE's comments are hilarious, and I have no idea what he's talking about.

Matt said...

Patricia, the Tuatha De Danaan are a race of supernatural beings from Irish mythology. They were originally pagan gods, but over the course of history they were demoted to fairies.

Patricia Bennett Fine Art Painter said...

Is there a connection to Ireland in the book?

Reading about Tuatha De Danaan, (Peoples of God) on wikipedia ( ) , they don't sound like beasts. "ainmhi" means beast in Gaelic, so perhaps Ainmhi, oh sorry, it's plural, Ainmhithe De Danaan might make more sense. Or maybe even a sentence, "the Tuatha De Danaan, misplaced, angry ancient Irish deities..." would clarify for the Irish mythology ignorant.

It's nice that the Tuatha De Danaan really are a concept and readers will appreciate that!

Matt said...

Eh, I don't really think the Irish connection needs to be expounded in the query. Mythology nerds will get a hard when they read "Tuatha De Danaan" and everyone else will just assume it's a fantasy name.

I don't know about ainmhi, but if the author did want to go with something a little more beasty I would suggest the Fomorians, the opponents of the Tuatha De Danaan. They are monstrous invaders that emerge from the sea or from underground. Their Wikipedia page has a neat painting of them.

The Tuatha De Danaan in the query sounded more like the Fomorians to me, but I imagine the author knows this because it would be hard to do research on one without coming across the other. The two groups sometimes intermarry in the legends. It could be that there are some monster politics at work in the novel.

AA said...

I don't care much for mythology, so I won't comment on that. It does seem to me that the stakes seem low. The MC is trying to save what's left of a dying world. But, honestly, what good would it do? If they're really one of the last hold-out cities it's only a matter of time. If they could reverse what happened and retake their world, it might be different. But it would be a long haul. Who's going to help all the alcoholics? Will the “street trash” submit to being trained, getting jobs? Besides, it doesn't seem she has a chance in hell of succeeding.

I think you'll have to explain why the Chancellor would let beasts overrun the city. It seems like a perfectly idiotic thing to do. I'm assuming there's a reason that makes sense but if you don't say what it is it seems almost unbelievably dumb.

I, also, have trouble seeing how the beasts can overrun the earth but not this one city.

Anonymous said...

"I, also, have trouble seeing how the beasts can overrun the earth but not this one city."

especially when the city is "bursting at the seams with slum kids and drunks...street trash and carnies"

Seriously, the modern world is unusual in the amount of non-productive members of society it can sustain. Look through history and you'll see that 99% of the population were subsistence farmers and criminals were regularly executed for what these days would be considered fairly trivial crimes. The kind of extreme conditions that leave only one city in existence aren't going to support people who aren't producing. They'll tear themselves apart fighting over the few resources available, leaving only those who are able bodied/have weapons and are willing to use them.