Thursday, December 13, 2018

Face-Lift 1387

Guess the Plot

Infinitely Stranger

1. On the scale of ordinary to bizarre, Billy Bledsoe's talking thumb is something else. 

2. It started with a bird on her ceiling. Then her doorbell ringing at 5 past 6 o'clock every night. Now there's a holly bush growing in her kitchen. Molly is regretting saving that fairy from a fox last Tuesday. 

3. First there was the partridge. Then more birds. The rings were okay, but the geese and swans were a nuisance. Now the drummers and pipers and leaping men are driving Eloise crazy. She's beginning to think Bradley isn't her true love, after all.

4. Cellist Cameron Rhone has discovered that a man he knows is actually a robot. An investigation reveals that other people he knows are also robots. What the...? In fact, robots are permeating all of society! And taking over people's minds! Only Cameron can save humanity, but what can one 12-year-old kid do?

 5. Adam has just met a wonderful woman. They laughed and danced and talked for hours. He told her everything about his life. The next day, she can't remember any of it, but he happily goes through it all over again. The day after, she's forgotten it all again. Will he have the patience to keep this up, or are they destined to be strangers forever? Also … something. I forget what.

Time traveling, world hopping, shape changing, genre bending--no, it's not sci-fi: it's American political studies from a historian-turned-philosopher-turned-anarchist.

7. Joe Miles lives in an average house in suburbia, works an average job in a small town, and has an average family. Then things get so strange that by the end of the story you'll wonder if Joe is crazy, or they are (but the author isn't, honest).

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Twelve year-old Cameron Rhone has served his share of detention, usually for skipping class to practice his cello in the music room. But nothing prepares him for the trouble he gets into when he accidentally hits the strange new principal, Mr. Haley, in the head with a golf ball—and the principal short circuits.

To keep Cameron quiet about what he knows now [now knows], Mr. Haley threatens to implant an electric-shock training device in his skull that’ll turn him into a perfect, obedient student. As the principal alters the curriculum, adds new rules, and gradually replaces human staff members with more robots, Cameron’s frustration grows. Fearing his beloved music teacher, Mrs. Kessum, will soon be replaced by an artless machine, he teams up with his cousin Sing, a self-proclaimed superhero, and searches for answers. ["and searches for answers" is vague. Answers to how to stop it? To what Haley is up to? Something like: "to nip Mr. Haley's scheme in the bud" or "to foil Mr. Haley's master plan" would be more specific.]

As secrets are uncovered, Cameron begins to realize [That could be more specific as well: While spying on an after-school teachers meeting, Cameron discovers that] the robots are not only invading his school but permeating society—and the minds of everyone. With the help of a mysterious girl who may have psychic powers, [What's mysterious about her? I would just call her a psychic girl. If it turns out in the book that she's not psychic, no one will care what you said in the query.] a rouge android, [We don't need to know the android's color. Oh, wait, did you mean a rogue android?] and his cousin Sing, Cameron, while struggling to deal with his parents’ separation, sets out to reclaim his life—and humanity—from the Machines.

INFINITELY STRANGER, a 68,000-word Middle grade science-fiction novel, is available upon request. I have a Bachelor’s in English and a Master’s in Library Science. I am currently a librarian on Long Island. (As far as I know, my neighbors are human). This is my first MG novel.

Thank you for your consideration,

[The title comes from a quotation by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: "Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man can invent."]


A good query. I mostly nit-picked.

While I don't think it's much of a concern that the reader might interpret "the principal short circuits" metaphorically (i.e. to mean loses his temper), I thought paragraph 2 might be giving examples of things the principal does because of the short circuiting, but it turns out whatever damage was caused by the golf ball has somehow been repaired between P1 and P2. 

Now if "the principal short circuits" were changed to "sparks fly from Mr. Haley's eyes and ears. Holy Moly! Mr. Haley's . . . a robot?!"  it might fix a couple issues that probably don't need fixing.

"While struggling to deal with his parents’ separation," seems out of place in the sentence it's in. If we need to know that at all, maybe it could be worked into the first paragraph.

I guess you consider the story too serious for an amusing title like WTF? Our Principal's a Robot?!


JRMosher said...

I like this query, and I think I would like the book, as well. EE has pointed everything I would have mentioned, including the one thing that I didn't like, which is the title. Especially when you note where it comes from, which isn't the book itself. That phrase could describe almost anything. I would go with something more specific and (if it fits the tone of the book) humorous, like "Mr. Haley's Mad Mechanical Mind" or "The Dean is a Machine!" Does the group of misfits give themselves a name, perhaps? I smell a series ...

Michael said...

Thanks so much for your help. I wondered if the reader would think Mr. Haley wasn't a robot just because he short-circuited, and I really want that to be clear. I was thinking of adding the word "literally." So like, "...when he accidentally hits the strange new principal in the head with a golf ball, and the principal--literally--short circuits." And then perhaps I should start P2 with something like, "After he reboots himself, Mr. Haley threatens to implant a training device in Cameron's skull if he doesn't keep what he knows to himself..." That might be better.

Thanks for the other tips too. A bit less vague in P2 and P3 would be a big improvement, along with moving the backstory about the parents toward the P1, or perhaps I'll just take it out completely.

I like the title you gave it hahah. The story started out as a joke and then got slightly more serious as it developed, although it still manages to be humorous throughout, I think. I'm certainly not against a funnier title. Perhaps I'll change it (though I'm not sure about the WTF part).

Thanks so much, again! I'll let you know if by some miracle this thing goes somewhere.

Michael said...

Thanks, JR. The title really is kind of vapid, so I'll think of something more fun. Your examples don't quite fit the tone, but they sound better than mine. I'm gonna work on it. And I never thought to give this group of misfits a name, but I think that's a great idea. I might just do that. Thanks so much.

Mister Furkles said...

I also vote for WTF, the Principal's a Robot? But then again, aren't they all?

Good query. Maybe a touch more specific but there is enough already to not be considered 'too vague.'

St0n3henge said...

The problem I have is identifying with a kid who skips class to practice the cello.
I don't want to be mean here, but am I supposed to identify with the class geek?
Some people would think a kid who skips class to practice the cello and plays golf, of all games, is already very nearly the perfect student.
Shouldn't this kid be more exciting? That would make him much more legitimately worried about being reprogrammed. Seems like this kid would just say, "Will it help me play the cello better?"

Michael said...

You make a good point, Stone. Though he’s only golfing cause it’s the new thing the robots are making the gym classes do, I could make him a tad bit more exciting. I like that idea a lot. I actually wondered if he wasn’t rebellious enough at the start, so thanks! I don’t think that should be too hard of a fix.

J.M. said...

My brain did snag a bit when the "principal" effectively confessed to being a bot and threatened to implant Cameron. Why doesn't he neutralize Cameron on the spot, especially since Cameron knows about the evil scheme now and the end-game is universal bot-ization anyway?

Unknown said...

[i] Mister Furkles said...
I also vote for WTF, the Principal's a Robot? But then again, aren't they all? [/i]

Mine was a ringer for Hitler. Acted like it, too.

I have the same simple issue: Would a kid this studious find robots all that repellant? At times he sounds robotic himself.