Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Face-Lift 1339

Guess the Plot

Alexander and Rosalind

1. Freezing, starving, blinded by snow, two tiny kittens struggle to survive on the streets of Milwaukee.

2. Two kids, three homicides, one very sharp knife. It's The Bad Seed, squared. Also, a gerbil.

3. Director, writer, and producer Declan Leibowicz believes that his tender romance Alexander and Rosalind, set during the Holocaust, will be the culmination of his career and he'll be showered with awards. When the critics shower him with something other than acclaim, however, he decides to get his revenge, one critic at a time.

4. They're fourteen, they're twins, and they're vampires. There's a sage in Canterbury who could make them human again, so they trick an Arabian pirate into taking them there. Finally, a Canterbury Tale written in modern English.

5. Alexander, a goldfish, largely ignored by the humans and often left unfed, wonders what he has to live for. Until the arrival of Rosalind, a tabby kitten entranced by the shiny fish that moves around the bowl in an unpredictable manner. Alexander loves the attention she gives him. Even more, those thighs would have good eating on them. If he can only tempt her into leaping into the tank...

6. A girl named Alexander, raised as a boy to be heir to her kingdom, is engaged to a (male) princess named Rosalind, second child of the neighboring kingdom. Comedy ensues as the duo attempt to keep their genders secret from each other, and their kingdoms from going to war.

7. She was named for a previous child lost. He chose the name he uses now. Follow this tale of two people with unexpected names as they go through life. Plus three dogs, a lightning struck tree, and a whole lot of cats.

8. Alexander slays zombies for a living. Rosalind kills hunters for the dead. Can this hunter and necromancer find a commonality when the world ends up in danger from a third force?

Original Version

Dear Agent,

One night in medieval England, the smell of blood draws fourteen-year-old vampires Alex and his twin sister to a dead body in the woods. While Alex is trying to stop his blood-starved sister from biting the body, a local trapper spots them, and they panic and flee.

Alex faints at the sight of blood and dreams of becoming a bard, and Rosa loves animals and is fiercely protective of her brother. They don’t hunt to satiate their thirst—their human mother cuts her hand, and their father, a physician, brings blood home from the hospital. [So why was Rosa blood-starved?] None of the villagers knows their secret, and the family strives to keep it that way.

But when the trapper tells the village priest what he saw, [Father, you'll never believe who I saw trying to drink the blood of a corpse yesterday.] Father Carroll becomes immediately suspicious. He starts spying on them, and when he uncovers the truth, Alex and Rosa must flee to survive.

Soon they encounter an Arabian pirate, whom they trick into escorting them to Canterbury, where they believe a sage can make them human again. But the priest is tracking them, and they’re running low on blood. [Hmmm. Maybe they can kill two birds with one stone.] And to be restored, they’ll have to risk not only their souls, but breaking the bond that’s defined them all their lives.

ALEXANDER AND ROSALIND, a 62,000-word YA horror novel, is available upon request. This is my first novel.

Thank you for your consideration,


A well-written query. Many agents declare that they don't handle poetry, screenplays, and especially anything involving vampires, so your prospects may be limited.

Here are a few items more plot-related than query-related that may or may not bother readers; you might consider addressing one or two of them in the query:

It seems the trapper and the priest are both more concerned with the actions of a couple kids who stumbled upon a dead body in the woods than with the fact that there is a dead body in the woods. I could see them suspecting the kids committed a murder before suspecting that they're vampires. Unless Rosa's mouth was on the body's throat. Does the trapper report the body to the sheriff? 

If the kids are getting their blood from their parents, presumably at home, it would be difficult for Father Carroll to uncover the truth. He can't spy on them 24/7, and he doesn't have binoculars or surveillance equipment.

If you need an escort to Canterbury, it seems there are better choices than an Arabian pirate.  Most people you encounter would know the way, and some of them probably go there regularly so you wouldn't have to trick them.

My limited research into medieval hospitals suggests that they were more likely to employ barbers than physicians, as medical hospitals came into existence after the French Revolution. On the other hand, some hospitals did house lepers or the insane or the incurable poor, so if dad did have a job in one, there was probably no shortage of corpses from which to drain some blood.

How far from Canterbury is the village? There's a limit to how far a priest can travel in pursuit of vampires without neglecting his congregation. In medieval times, thirty miles was a long way.

As the smell of blood drew the kids to the body, I'm wondering why Alex didn't faint. I guess the blood wasn't visible? When you say "Alex faints at the sight of blood," a reader could assume you mean he faints when he sees blood on the dead body. To get around this, maybe it would be better if the first two paragraphs were organized something like:

Fourteen-year-old Alexander faints at the sight of blood and dreams of becoming a bard. His twin sister Rosalind loves animals and is fiercely protective of her brother. In other words, they aren't your typical vampires.  They don’t hunt to satiate their thirst—their human mother cuts her hand, and their father, a physician, brings blood home from the hospital. None of the villagers suspects their secret, and the family strive to keep it that way.

One night, the smell of blood draws Alex and Rosa to a dead body in the woods. While Alex is trying to pull his sister off the body, a local trapper spots them, and they panic and flee.

When the trapper tells . . . 

It wasn't convenient to mention medieval England in this version, but Alex wanting to be a bard is suggestive, and at the end you can say ALEXANDER AND ROSALIND, a 62,000-word YA horror novel set in medieval England, is available upon request.

Apparently the word "vampire" first appeared in the eighteenth century. Do your characters use the word? Eastern European folklore had other terms for similar "creatures."


Mike said...

Thank you EE for your helpful critique. I knew when I started writing the book that the market for vampires was out, but I didn't care. The idea came into my head one day, and, although I tried, i couldn't push it away. So I wrote.

The reason the trapper and the priest aren't concerned about the dead body is because the trapper is the one who shot the man in the woods when he caught him trying to steal his furs. After shooting him, the man, (a vagrant) kept running and the trapper lost him. In an earlier draft of this query letter, I tried to explain this, but it seemed too wordy.

I think the word "spy" is inaccurate and carries with it the terms you talked about. I can amend that. Thanks!

In medieval England, most hospitals were leper hospitals. You're right. Physicians generally made house visits and for the most part didn't often work in hospitals. Hospitals were staffed by master and barber surgeons and priests. I took a little liberty in making him a physician, but perhaps I could change it. I wanted him to be educated, someone who diagnoses patients by examining the positions of stars, planets, administers medicine, etc. I'll have to think about this.

The Arabian pirate has a backstory of her own, but basically the reason she escorts them and not someone else is because, once Alex's secret is found out, the entire county is looking for them and they believe they can't trust anyone. The pirate, however, was shipwrecked some time ago and has been raiding villages with a gang of thieves for months. She is being searched for by the sheriff just as Alex and Rosa are. They promise they can get her money in Canterbury if she doesn't kill them/turn them in. I'll try to fit this into the query somehow. I felt I kind of brushed over this a bit.

Your point about how far the priest would travel is a good one, and it is far to Canterbury (about a hundred miles). I think I handle why the priest would go this far away from his parish okay in the book, but I see now it wouldn't hurt to suggest it in the query. Thank you!

Alex nearly faints when he sees the blood on the dead body. I like how you reorganized the paragraphs. In drafts of this letter, i kept switching the first two just like that. My problem was I wanted it to be clear right away to the reader we were in medieval England, but the point about the bard is a good one, and mentioning in the end works too. I think I'll do that.

The word "vampire" is never used in the book. "Beast" and "demon" and "the accursed" is used. I used "vampire" in the letter because I wanted to be clear to the agent/editor what I was talking about. It was one of those choices I wrestled with in earlier drafts. Perhaps I'll rethink it, again.

Thank you so much for all your help!

Evil Editor said...

You can probably do without the sentence saying the villagers don't know the family secret and the family wants to keep it that way. It pretty much goes without saying by the end of the query, if it isn't common sense from the beginning.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious GTPs, minions. Well done. I had trouble picking the real plot.
The query is intriguing, if only due to having a vampire who faints at the sight of blood - but it raised more questions for me. Do Alex's parents force feed him once he's blacked out?
The line about risking their souls and bond is not clear to me- maybe that needs more fleshing out? I'm not an aficionado of vampire stories, but I thought they no longer had souls. And how do you break a bond between twins?